What can I do?
By Clark McClain
Train up a child in the way they should go; even when they are old they will not depart from it.
In not only Jewish culture, but in other cultures around the world children pass into adulthood when they turn 13, or around the time of puberty. In our culture we tend to see things a little differently.
Urban dictionary defines teenager as follows:
Something im not proud to be, because a lot of teenagers are quite simply put; idiots.
Im 17, and I look around and see all of these people (teenagers) moping around, I tell them that we live like kings and they shrug me off and tell me about how bad their life is because, for example, they got dumped.
Even more telling is their definition of a teenage girl:
The Teenage Girl is possibly the absolute stupidest, most materialistic, and shallow kind of human there is, and by definition the easiest to make money off of.
So my question is where does this come from and why have we allowed this to stick? From scripture we love to quote 1 Timothy 4:12 with relation to youth groups. It say, ‘Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.’ (emphasis added) I believe a lot of time and effort can, and is, placed on teaching youth to not to let their age stop them from dreaming big or being involved. We perpetuate a culture in the church that shows that youth shouldn’t let adults look down upon them, but I feel all too often we leave it there, we don’t finish the verse or put it in context. To restate, and emphasize another portion; ‘Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.’ This scripture is far more important, in my understanding, to say “even though you have just come to Christ, even though our society, our culture, looks down on you, set an example. Practice what you believe.” This is incredibly important, in the church but also out in the world. But I would like to pose a question, how can we ask that of our youth? How do we create a culture where our youth are setting an example in the world of who they believe Christ to be? This is simply too large a task to ask of a teenager, especially as defined by our culture! If our culture insists that teenagers are idiots, materialistic, shallow, and moody then how can they be expected to set a mature Christian example for the world? Quite simply they can’t, at least not alone.
That brings me to the initial scripture at the top of this post. Proverbs 22:6 says ‘train up a child in the way they should go; even when they are old they will not depart from it.’ So it is our job, our task, as mature Christians to train up the youth, so that what they learn from us, about what it means to follow Christ, will not depart even when they grow up! Statistically speaking a large portion of youth who are raised in the church fall off when they go to college. I wonder if that’s they youth’s fault, or if maybe it also is the responsibility of the church to instill Christ, and Christian values, into the youth they have. So that when they grow up and go off to college, they won’t fall away from the church, but rather they will seek it out.
I would say that with the youth we currently have there has been good effort made to raise them up in the ways of Christ. However, the 10-20 high school youth we currently have are by no means representative of those in the community. Central middle school currently has 969 students between 7th and 8th grade. Recently I sat down with one of the assistant principals there and he told me, among other things, that they had a student transferring into school that day who already had 3 felonies on their record. A 7th grader who has 3 felonies. Central Middle is also a title one school, where 39% of students qualify for free lunch and another 10% reduced lunch. This community needs Christ. 7th graders who already have felonies on their record need Christ. Every student at Central Middle needs Christ.
That is why it is my goal, over the next year to get 10 new Middle School students, that’s 1% of those that currently go to Central Middle, plugged into the life and body of our youth group and our church. Just imagine if we had 10 students who are raised in the way of Christ at our church, something they may not ever get at home. Imagine the possibilities if we as a church follow Proverbs 6:22, raise up just 10 middle school students to follow in the way of 1 Timothy 4:12, that they would go to school and set the example for all the other students at Central Middle.
I can’t do this alone and that is why I need, this church, the youth group, even the entire community, needs you! We all need to work together, as mature Christian believers, to raise up youth in the way of Christ so that they can be the example. I pray that over this next year you would imagine with me what could happen if we allow Holy Spirit to move through us and be God’s teachers to these kids.