Listen to this talk (or download – right-click here and ‘Save as’):
Children and Youth Ministry can be quite a divisive subject to speak about in church.
Parents tend to get mentally ready for a guilt trip about how they should be doing more at home with their kids. Some assume that we need to make the church more accessible to young people by having essentially a rock concert here every week.
As we unpack Gods word, we will find, contrary to a rock concert, how simple intentional acts towards our young people, like a handshake, offer them the best chance of knowing and living for Jesus themselves.
Deuteronomy 6 4 – 9
Moses wants to see in this generation to the one that has just gone. And he wants to equip them to effectively pass it on to their children and all the generations that come after. He doesn’t want to them to fall into the wicked ways of the religions around them. This is so like the context that we find ourselves in today. Today we find our young people facing different beliefs, different worldviews, a different view of sex and their own body. In the rise of individualism in society, where any gender goes, where sex is used not in the context of a relationship but almost like a commodity. We as Gods church need to up our game in speaking the truth and showing them a better way than what culture is saying to them.
So the question of How do we, as Gods Church, make Jesus known to the Next generation
To Listen and Love God
The tendency in dealing with young people is to try to either change them. Shout at them, discipline them, try to get them inline. Or Equally trying to change we: creating youth churches etc.
God says first need to look at ourselves.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.
The very first word is the word Hear. The Hebrew word used here is Shammah. Shammah does not just mean hear or listen in that you just receive sound waves. But is actually a call to respond and obey. That connects to the rest of vs 4 where we are told the Lord our God, the Lord is one. So then we need to live our lives in accordance with the fact that the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength
You cannot Listen and obey God, without Loving him. And you cannot Love God if you don’t listen to him. They are not exclusive, they work in tandem with each other.
Jesus is clearly teaching that this continues as the defining element of Gods people. That they Listen and Love God
That should be our defining feature when we engage with young people. We shouldn’t come trying to change them, we shouldn’t try and emulate them. We should first look at ourselves and go “Am I Listening and Loving God with all I am?”.
To Pass it On
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates
What this passage is conveying is the importance of establishing that same faith of listening and loving God to the next generation. Not only that tells us how we should be going about it. It is clearly highlighting that the nurture and establishment of faith in children will only happen through careful, intentional and regular discipleship.
As Mel lacy Director of the Children’s and Youth Ministry, Course at Oak Hill College put it. That Moses is vigorously challenging the 21st-century idea that an hour a week in Sunday School is enough to cultivate a robust, personal faith in children.
The decline in Christians in this country can be clearly correlated to decline in young people in the church. We can be so focussed on reaching out that we unaware of the potential faith that could be slipping away in the young people we already have.
So how do we do this?
Parents are already pressurised world and passages like this normally up that pressure. Though it doesn’t need to be read this way.
I would be immensely surprised if a parent who loves Jesus, isn’t already doing most of what this passage is talking about. What it is talking about… and I have stolen this phrase is D6 moments.
We can all consider times, maybe when we were children or if you a parent of any aged child… you might be a grandparent. Where you have simply talked about Jesus, over breakfast, on the school run, as you’re bringing them to swimming or dancing, Simply praying before you eat or at bedtime. Despite the excessive busyness of modern life, there will always be precious moments available. Whilst there is an importance on family devotions. There is just as important a need, for informal whole-life discipleship. Children need to see our faith intentionally on display.
Support our parents.
Ask them how there week has gone. Remember different families when you are praying. Not judging the parents when… and does happen to everyone, their child is running riot in the church. If we lead ministries, to acknowledge that parents in your team, are already serving on a ministry 24/7 with their kids. Offer free babysitting, so parents can go to a stream,
Allow the children to feel a part of the church. Because they are part of the church
They need to be a significant voice in the church. Their ideas and thoughts need to be heard as much as mine or yours. We need to empower them to be courageous in their faith as it emerges.
In the Bible, the church is regarded as a family. Some churches call each other brothers and sisters to really bring home that point. In our mission statement, we call ourselves a family of believers. The impact on young people would then be massive. The welcome team would be different… you are welcoming a grandchild to church. Everyone would want to say hi to them, get to know them, be interested in them.
You see small, simple, intentional acts towards our young people, like a handshake, offer them the best chance of knowing and living for Jesus themselves.
This is all just a spillover from knowing who we are through Christ. To Listen and love God is to pass it on to the next generation. We effectively do this when we see ourselves as 1 family as 1 church worshipping the 1 God.