I’ve been thinking a lot recently about whether the work I’m doing is having any notably positive impact on the extension of God’s kingdom. This hasn’t come from nowhere; it’s not like I have had some cataclysmic crisis of confidence in the meaning of my entire life and purpose. In fact, it’s almost the exact opposite of that, the more I get to know the children I have the massive pleasure to serve the more I question how I am contributing to their spiritual development and growth in their relationship with Christ. Ultimately there is no simple answer, but for the purpose of this blog I’m going to draw on some important areas to think about based on my own experiences as a young Christian working in ministry.
My first ‘idea’ is rooted in the well-known phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child’. Now, I’m not suggesting that we all have to be offering school pick-ups, swimming lessons and a baby siting rota as long as the old testament. But what I am saying is, one of the biggest factors that has contributed to my spiritual growth and development of my gifts in ministry has come from a network of experienced Christian encouragers. I would not be where I am today if I didn’t have a group of people that allowed me to take risks, try things, make mistakes and then let me try again. Throughout the bible God chooses to use people with little experience and who frankly make a frightening number of mistakes in situations where the stakes are much higher than a slightly below par all-age service. And despite these mistakes God continues to use them. Take Peter for example, he made copious amounts of mistakes including but not limited to; cutting some ones ear off and denying Jesus not one, but three times. These aren’t insignificant things. Yet he became “The rock on which Christ built his church.”
Are we a church of encouragers? We want young people unashamedly passionate for Jesus, who will confidently and courageously share the saving gospel message of Christ. Along the way they will make mistakes and things will go wrong, but the difference is made when experienced Christians they can look up to help them to get back up and support them as they try again. Just as Jesus did. Who knows you may be supporting the future leaders of our church and nation?
Next, are we too comfortable? It is probably no surprise to you that young people do things a little differently. I am by no means old. But I do find myself totally baffled by some of the conversations I have with the children I get to spend time with. The words they use, the YouTube videos they watch and their general perspective on life. This different perspective and approach to life in general also translates to a different perspective of church, and this is where we can start to get uncomfortable. We all have ideas of what we think church should be and alongside a new generation, a new format of church will also arrive. As much as it may make us uncomfortable these young people are the future of the church, but they are also the church of today. We need to not just accept their presence but encourage their creativity and passion for the lord. Unfortunately, this may a times be uncomfortable, but Jesus was a man who changed the status quo, he challenged every preconception of what religion should be.
Lastly, are we giving our young people and young leaders the opportunity to do just that, lead? This may seem like a repeat of the previous points, and to be honest it basically is. But there is one minor caveat. Yes, we can include the young people, ya know, let them, serve coffee, maybe they can play drums. Yes, this is a good encouraging thing to do, but within these minor roles the space you are giving them to grow is minuscule. To really see the young people grow and discover their callings and passions they need to be allowed to lead. I would not be where I am now, which admittedly is not a hugely influential position, without being given the opportunity to lead. Whether that was the opportunity to first lead worship at 14 or first lead an all age at 17, or more recently be trusted to preach on a comparatively regular basis for a 21-year-old. All of these opportunities that I have been given in which I have been placed in leadership positions have given the most opportunities to firstly fail, but from that, grow and continue to grow whilst further discovering a passion for Christ and sharing the gospel.
And at the root of it, that’s what we want right? To support and encourage a new generation of world changing believers. So who is the Timothy to your Paul, you are you encouraging?