Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected theses and so have shipwrecked their faith. 1 Timothy 1:18-19 (NIV)
Erin McClellan, youth director, wife, and mother, has a heart for the young people that she has been charged to pastor. Like most who are in youth ministry, she must work with little financial support and leftover space and resources. BSP asked Erin to share her heart about the ministry she has been given.
The focus for the young people that I work with may not fit in any stereotype you know. My group of young people, by and large, do not come from “church-going” families. I do not have the luxury of many years of Sunday School exposure when it comes to Bible study and lessons. With Bible study, I am simply trying to find stories or passages that introduce who God is, his attributes, as well as his love and plan for salvation. I do not focus lessons on outward things such as dress, music styles, or even profanity. I would rather spend the short time we have together focusing on what they should do, rather than what they should not do.
I have found that if I can get a young person to love God, family, friends, and even strangers I won’t have problems with theft, fighting, or a plethora of bad deeds. If I can show them the importance of speaking kindly to one another, there won’t be the need to teach about profanity. I have such a short period of time with my kids, that I don’t want to draw so much attention to trivial stuff – If they get the important stuff in first, the rest will follow naturally.
The tools that I use to gain that focus are absolutely anything that will reach my young people. We play games of all sorts, videos, music, acting things out, and field trips. One of my favorites is to use a completely secular movie and then ask them to explain to me how all or any part of the movie relates to God, Jesus, or church. It makes them think and I am frequently surprised by the answers.
For example, two weeks ago I took them to see “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.” When I asked what symbolism they saw, I got answers about how it seemed the Greeks made their gods very human-like with fighting, sex, anger, hatred, and selfishness. Also, how real hell seemed and how the main character was Jesus-like in his quest to redeem his mother. I feel that if they can learn to look for God or examples of God in everyday situations and circumstances, they’ll be far more likely to hear Him when He speaks or notice where He might be working.
Parents, church leaders, and those who are ‘older’ in their faith are so important to these young adults as they grow up. The bottom line is: Love them. Period. It is the hardest thing to do and the only thing that will bring real results.
More than once I have heard negativity from people in my own church and other churches as they complain how kids today are so much more disrespectful and heathenistic. Perhaps that is true. Yet, my thoughts are always: “well, how much time did you spend on your face before God praying and interceding for them, body, mind and soul, before you came to me?” “Why is it that you haven’t come to me before and asked how you can be involved with sports or discipleship or Bible study or prayer?” The painful and incredibly harsh sounding answer is: they don’t really love them. If I truly love someone, I will be willing to spend time with them, pray for them, sacrificing my time and money to make sure they grow up to be Godly men and women.