The kingdom of God is present in our youth.
One of the beautiful activities that Jesus performs on planet earth is bringing lost souls into proximity to his heart.
He loves to be close to the broken hearted, the one that is lost.
I love the words of Trevor Hudson, “Many people believe that Jesus is far more interested in sorting out the sin in our messed up lives than in sharing in a simple friendship with us.”
The first thing Jesus offers us is friendship.
Friendship always begins with acceptance of another person’s soul. It doesn’t mean that we agree with the sin that entangles their soul but we love them and accept them. In fact our souls need to weep with each other at how sin entangles each one of our souls. None of us are totally free from how sin impacts our mind, our will, our body and our soul.
This is what our youth leaders are offering to our young people.
Friendship, closeness and acceptance.
Only 1 in every 30 young people in Australia have any form of friendship with Jesus.
Youth groups have changed!
Recently I was speaking with Geoff Lyons our former Federal Minister and he talked about how narrow a window for influence we have with young people today. He said we lose them when they are 14 years of age. This is because they are working. He believes that seven day trade has destroyed our young people’s ability to learn what it is like to be in community.
The pursuit of materialism by our generation has impacted on the soul of a young person. This is something I think our generation needs to repent of. It has been a terrible sin that has affected this next generation.
We have 97 youth in our youth group. 75% of youth are aged 10 – 14 years of age.
With youth starting work at 14 years of age we have a 2 -3 year window of opportunity.
Once we had a 4 – 6 year window of opportunity to influence. This is a major change in youth ministry.
The other major change from when I was a kid, is that youth groups are no longer for the kids who simply attend church. The intent of the attractional church model through the 90’s and early 2000’s was to bring the church “out.” Until that point the church was separated from the real world. The church was unattractive, boring, irrelevant and lacking in love and compassion. Through the attractional church movement God got his people out of the four walls of the church and back into proximity with the world.
Our youth group is primarily made up of unreached kids. 72 of the 97 youth are from unchurched homes.
72% of our youth are classified as being in an unreached people group.
Many have never even heard the name Jesus apart from a swear word.
Most have never been inside a church building.
Last year when we held a baptism service, some of the kids wondered if they would even be allowed to watch.
At Easter time when we introduced communion they had no idea.
They come messy!
We have transgender, pan gender, bi sexual, annorexic, depressive, anxious, sexually assaulted kids. We have kids into pornography, alcohol, drugs and materialism. In fact they look a lot like some of the people who have sat beside you in church but who aren’t as open about their stuff as young people are.
Jesus is drawing these kids just like he drew hundreds like them to himself when he walked planet earth. To these broken, weary souls he gives the same invitation, “Come to me all you who are weary that I might give you rest.”
Jesus begins with friendship not the sin.
He begins with proximity not contempt and distance.
He begins with love not condemnation.
Our youth leaders are amazing.
They are dealing with issues that you and I have never had to face as leaders. There are no policies for them to follow because they are breaking new ground.
They are a very young team. They have little support from the bigger body. Few encourage them. The creative team, the set up team, the welcome team would get 4 times the encouragement than the youth team get. Their commitment is exceptional. For many of them they are studying, working and what free time they do have they give to this ministry. Every week for 4 hours they commit to loving. Nearly every week there is a broken disclosure of some variety. During the week they visit sporting events, they phone, they meet up one on one.
Jesus has placed a heart of love in these young people that isn’t in our generation. We are more focused on sin than on love. This generation of leaders think differently, feel differently and respond to the pain of a sin entangled soul differently to my generation. This is a work of the Holy Spirit. Whenever we see love being poured out that is the power and fire of the Holy Spirit.
This generation have been equipped to reach the next generation in a way we haven’t.
Our generation are very selective in our outrage.
We are very inconsistent with our moral outrage. This generation of leaders are not so selective in their outrage seeing all sin being of equal concern. They don’t scale sin like my generation have done so. This is such a beautiful gift that they bring to the church. I believe that because of this they will love humanity in a way we have not yet seen. I am pregnant with hope.
There is a new church coming and it will be these solitary leaders living in a darkness that we didn’t experience at the same age that will punch holes in the darkness like we haven’t seen before.
It is our job to champion, to encourage, to bless, to empower, to understand, to love, to keep watch over their soul.
What about this generation of church youth?
Your child has the opportunity to be discipled.
To learn how to partner with Jesus’ radical love for humanity.
The kids will learn how to love deeply. Their hearts will be enlarged as they offer friendship to young people who are not like them, but who are like them. That’s the beautiful thing about the table. As we start to share our soul we realise we aren’t so different and find ourself saying, “You too!”
The Holy Spirit will place his heart in them and they will weep over the devastation of sin in people’s lives just like Jesus did days before he went to the cross.
He will place a heart of friendship within them. This is the new model of church. One on one friendship. One on one care. Coming to church services and coming forward for an alter call isn’t the new model. It’s gathering in smallness where hearts can be shared. This generation of kids are loving the small groups that we offer during the week. We have kids who have never opened a bible in their life opening the Bible and they love it because their heart is seen and known.
They will become Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s. This is as prophetic as it gets. This generation to be salt and light need to be strong. You only become strong in fire. You only become strong by having to stand and stand and stand in darkness.
Your child will have an opportunity at a very young age to choose who they want to follow. This is a wonderful decision to have to make. You don’t want your kid drifting into Christianity because they will drift out as soon as they leave home or a challenge comes their way.
My child is only young.
The crazy thing is that God has a habit of choosing young people to do the most amazing things in history.
He chose a teenage girl who was maybe 14 or 16 to give birth to his son Jesus Christ.
He chose a young shepherd boy who probably still had pimples to be king of a nation.
Samuel was chosen as a small boy to hear God and to be a pastor to the nation.
In India, the average age of church planters is 18 – 22.
God has this habit of entrusting big assignments to very young shoulders.
Who knows your child might actually be called for a time such as this. To love a generation that is crying out to be loved and healed. Your child may become a spiritual giant.
My children turned out great and they’re pastors kids and they aren’t supposed to turn out great.
My kids were 1 in 30.
They went to a public school and were exposed to everything – drugs, sexuality, divorce, greed, materialism, individualism, new age and lukewarm Christians. From a very early age my kids could tell those that were at church for food and handouts, and those that wanted to seriously follow Jesus.
In Kindergarten my son Jono decided to invite parents to church saying, “It was just the place for them, that they would be loved accepted and find it helpful.”
My kids fell in love with Jesus and discovered what it was like to be loved and to love, to sin and to know grace and forgiveness.
Your child will be okay as well. They simply need to be introduced to Jesus and to understand the cycle of sin, the need for grace and forgiveness, and the role of spiritual disciplines.
Youth Group has changed.
The Holy Spirit has done this work, not the world. It’s no longer about a nice bunch of Christian kids getting together, playing games and eventually marrying one another. It is about radical assignment and radical love.
We know that this isn’t what every Christian family is looking for when they pull out the shopping list of what they want from a church.
But it is what Jesus tells us we sign up for when we become a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ.
We can have all the knowledge about Christianity in the world but knowledge won’t make us a disciple or a follower of Jesus Christ. That is the main difference between youth groups of our era and youth groups in this generation.
I love our youth, I love our youth leaders, I love what the Holy Spirit is doing.
It is challenging, it is confronting, it takes us to our knees in prayer.
But if I want to follow Jesus I have no choice but to choose to do messy and hard, stretch and trust that he is good, he is at work and that he loves with a love that can’t separate us from himself.
I am praying for a move of the Holy Spirit over these youth that they will fall in love with the one that gave life to their soul. I hope you will join me.