Jesus looked over the crowd of more than 5,000 who had followed Him up a mountainside, yearning to hear more, and questioned His disciples on how to feed them. Andrew brought a lad to Jesus who had offered his lunch of five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus accepted the willingness of this boy and took the little that he had, and made one of the greatest miracles. Andrew could have easily dismissed the lad because, humanly speaking, what could that lunch do? I love the fact that Andrew took the boy to Jesus and involved him in the process and in the conversation.
The miracle took place because one adult involved a youth in the process and two generations worked together. When we work together, we grow together. We must believe that God can use children, youth and young adults with any gifts and talents they have, no matter how little it may seem. We need their creativity, passion, desire and willingness to help, change, grow and live. We need more disciples like Andrew who will bring our younger generations to Jesus. Churches die when one generation does not empower the next. Often youth are pushed aside at church and we later find them serving corporate America as CEOs and CFOs. They lead the world that esteemed their value, which their former church overlooked.
It’s time to take a good look at our church and ask: Are we growing old or are we growing young? The book Growing Young outlines six essential strategies to help young people discover and love your church. The core commitments of growing young and growing together are Unlock keychain leadership: Instead of centralizing authority, empower others—especially young people. Empathize with today’s young people: Instead of judging/criticizing, step into their shoes. Take Jesus’ message seriously: Instead of asserting formulaic gospel claims, welcome young people into a Jesus-centered way of life. Fuel a warm community: Instead of focusing on cool worship/programs, aim for warm peer and intergenerational friendships. Prioritize young people and families everywhere: Instead of giving lip service to how much young people matter, look for creative ways to tangibly support, resource and involve them in all facets of your congregation. Be the best neighbors: Instead of condemning the world outside your walls, enable young people to neighbor well locally and globally.
I pray that we will understand the value of our youth and empower them by giving them a voice and a chance while leading them to Jesus. Let’s finish preaching the gospel to the world and await Jesus’ return together.
By Vanston Archbold
General Field Secretary/Diversity, Associate Youth Director