Can you believe that some of Jesus’ disciples may have been a similar age as some young people in our youth & young adults ministries today? Whilst there’s no hard Biblical evidence that proves the age of His disciples, it is quite likely that many of Jesus’ followers were in their mid-to-late teens. That would certainly explain some of their immaturity and foolishness!
But these young men gave up all they had to follow Jesus – they answered his call to learn from the Master how to become fishers of men. This learning did not take place in a lecture theatre, isolated from the realities of the world, but rather right alongside Jesus, following in His footsteps… hearing his parables, playing a part in his miracles, having their faith stretched as they saw Jesus cast out demons and heal people. Their training was certainly ‘on the job.’
I believe that many young people in our churches today want to be activists like Jesus’ first disciples. They want to jump in with both feet and get their hands dirty as they explore how to make their faith real. They want to contribute something real to make a difference. They want to play a direct part in helping usher in God’s Kingdom. They don’t just want to be lectured to... they want to be involved.
They already post videos to youtube, share photos on flickr, add their insight to Wikipedia and have lengthy debates on Facebook – in the same way, they want to be contribute to and co-create their expression of faith within their church. Young people see their adolescent years as an opportunity to live out the calling of Christ now, rather than as years of preparation or education before they can engage with the ‘real world’ once they leave school or university.
Late last year, a number of our Grade 11 and 12 students got involved in a local outreach to the poor and marginalised. They spent the afternoon preparing food, and as darkness fell, they visited three sites to provide physical and spiritual nourishment to those in need. They had a chance to feed the hungry, to pray for the lost, and to reach out to the lonely. The climax of the experience was when one of these they served asked to accept Christ as their Lord and Saviour. These young people returned to church absolutely buzzing, and were eager to report back to their peers about what they had seen, learnt, and experienced, and encourage others to get their hands and feet dirty in following Jesus now.
Creating opportunities for young people to grow and develop by serving others has its challenges. They make mistakes, it can get messy at times, and it is imperative to have wise mentors to guide them in the process. But in our churches and our homes, we need to be providing opportunities now for our young people to try things, to contribute, and to grow God’s Kingdom. After all, it seemed to work out well for Jesus and his disciples!
Youth & Young Adults PastorGateway Baptist Church