The Eyes of the Church: The gift of young people
I have found that students are often dealt with in church congregations as the subculture in need of schooling to “fall in line,” while simultaneously being expected to carry the lifeblood of the same dull, declining congregation. I agree that students need godly and Holy Spirit-led training in “the way they should go.” Otherwise there would be no future of the Church. However, it strikes me as interesting, that this group of people has on its already heavily-laden shoulders the expectations of the entire church to invigorate life, and yet are scolded for doing so in a manner outside the norm.
THE INDIVIDUAL IN THE CHURCH BODY
Cleverness aside, this really is a serious problem. Many would consider one of the worst thing to happen to God’s people was the adoption of Christianity as Rome’s official religion by Constantine. Before this, the very thing giving Christianity life was the threat of death which forced them to rely on the Holy Spirit and each other. Without either of these, Christianity would have easily been stamped out just a few decades after Jesus’ ascension. This is precisely why Paul wrote so often of the paramount significance of the individual in the church body, who is so important because of his or her uniqueness rather than in spite of it. If I may quote one of my recent favorite movies, the live action version of The Jungle Book, “The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”
UNIQUE AND DIFFERENT
What we have in churches and student ministries today is a fear of the individual and their uniqueness, especially that which is difficult to understand. I find this ironic. Wasn’t Jesus the complete embodiment of unique and difficult to understand in Pharisee-led Israel? Have you read the crowds reaction to his parables?
This fear of the unique or complex can easily be found in congregations in their attitudes toward teenagers. As I get older, it becomes more obvious to me that I am slowly losing the creativity, passion, and boldness that so often epitomized my younger years. FOR THIS VERY REASON, I see the incomparable value and gift that is the youth of our churches. Without them I would quickly give up a fervor for God’s creative and redemptive endeavors in favor of my comfortable and predictable routines. Yes, young people are oftentimes emotionally-driven. Yes, they make many mistakes in their pursuit of truth and purpose (just like we did at their age and still do!). And yes, they often don’t look before they leap, having little foundation for the choices they make or “truths” they adhere to. However, without the creativity, passion, and boldness God has graciously given us in the form of young people, I, experts, statisticians, and any with eyes to see can tell you church, at least as we know it, will die a slow, sad demise.
Young people have eyes that remain wide open to the wonders and possibilities of God.
Though few of us would argue this, all across the nation I see churches that have yet to proactively utilize the gifts of students in systemic ways. Are we simply entertaining a “cute” or “interesting” way of thinking so our students feel valued, or are we proving we trust the Holy Spirit in them by letting them lead our churches’ vision with their capable and gifted eyes?
What if every single member of Christ’s Body is of ultimate importance to its survival? What if the Holy Spirit has purposefully empowered younger members with vision for the present and the gallantry to try it? What if they have the “eyes to see” and God gave us “ears to hear,” all the while relying on our trust in the Holy Spirit’s sovereignty to unify us in the process?
Let God lead you and your congregation through the eyes of the young. Allow Him to restore creativity and daring in your mission to make disciples. See if He doesn’t work miraculously in your communities.
Kurtis Vanderpool currently serves as pastor of the Ragamuffin Student Ministry in Lubbock, TX with his wife, Emily & husky, Moose. He loves writing, reading fantasy fiction, is a gifted public speaker, and owns his own video production company. Kurtis loves people and has a deep passion for those society often overlooks including the weird, shy, and misunderstood…a.k.a. the Ragamuffins. You can find his work at thislifebehind.wordpress.com or connect with him on Twitter @thislifebehind
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.