Winning and Holding Our Youth

The winning of our youth is a problem for every worker in the conference.

By W. C. LOVELESS, M.V. Secretary of the Illinois Conference

The winning of our youth is a problem for every worker in the conference. We all see the alarming conditions that prevail in our churches, and are puzzled to know just how to meet them. If we were to pass a one-word sentence on many of our youth regarding their spiritual responses, it would be "In­difference." I am concerned because I fear that our youth have never had a taste of real Christianity. Our youth face the problem of a thin-blooded Christianity which manifests itself in such ways that it reduces their faith to a minimum. Consequently, religion becomes totally inadequate for them. Here the church has a vital responsibility. What energetic young man or young woman wants a belief that is indifferently held? If being a Seventh-day Adventist doesn't make a difference in character and conduct, in work and play, in relation to God, why be one?

One Sabbath when I visited a church which had not had much ministerial help for some time, I was asked to take the youth's Sabbath school class. There were eighteen members in this class. Four of them had studied their lesson seven times, two or three had studied it once or twice, and the rest had not even looked at it. Of the eighteen, eight wore rings; nearly every girl had red fingernails and entirely too much lipstick and rouge. I mention this case so that we can understand that we have a very definite problem. We need not feel that we have accomplished our task, for we have not. In one conference in our union, one of our men made a careful survey of the situation in our churches. He found that thirteen per cent of the young people between the ages of four­teen and thirty—all baptized and still church members—no longer attended church. Such a situation constitutes a real problem, and shows that we have much work to do for our youth.

One field of service for our youth that has been neglected by most of our workers is the social problem. A recent survey of thousands of college students in different sections of the United States revealed that 98 per cent of the boys and 85 per cent of the girls are immoral, and they admit it. They were not ashamed of the fact when confronted with the situation. I am not a pessimist or an alarm­ist, and I am thoroughly convinced that very few of our young people have committed these grosser sins, but I am wondering if we could not do something along the line of social work for our youth, and lay before them the true ideals of manhood and womanhood. This can­not be done in a light way. These ideals must be presented in as serious a manner as that in which a sermon on the Sabbath or the Spirit of prophecy would be delivered. All of us feel that we do not know how. But there are many outlines and practical helps. such as those offered by the Home Commission, that would help fit anyone to give the whole­some and simple counsel that is so greatly needed. I am not advocating that any of our workers involve themselves in sex lectures, for we are not equipped to do this.

One of the greatest needs in our churches at the present time is to have a supervised pro­gram of activity for the young people and juniors throughout the entire year. Here is a suggestion that I am sure will meet with favor and receive consideration by every worker. It is for every church to have a church sponsor to take responsibility for the guidance and welfare of the youth of the church. This sponsor should be chosen by the church board. A suitable person should be picked out—a natural leader of the youth, someone who loves the great out of doors, and who knows something of the wonders of na­ture, whose available time will be given over to the work and activities of young people's and juniors' problems. This will solve a great many difficulties, and relieve pastors and elders of a great responsibility.

We greatly lament dependence upon com­mercial and "canned" sources of recreation. The boys and girls and youth of today are bow­ing and scraping before the gods of our day, such as automobiles, radios, theaters, and other amusements. The movie stars and sport champions are their idols. Surely it is time to see that our boys and girls grow up renewed in mind and in soul. Training for correct use of leisure time constitutes one of the major unsolved problems of civilization. God's book of nature offers a solution to this problem. The nature clubs that are springing up in every part of this country today are doing a great deal to keep the youth interested in worth-while things. Naturally, young people love to be out of doors, and if they have a leader who likes the same things, many profit­able and interesting hours can be spent in this way. I just visited a church in which a humble sister, a great nature lover, was able to hold fifteen or twenty young people, who today are the mainstays of the church, because she was willing to give of her time and effort.

Another way to win and hold our youth is to show that we have confidence in their abil­ity and are willing to use their talents in every profitable way. If you want to win the hearts of fathers and mothers, use their chil­dren and young people in the service. Have them announce the song, offer the prayer, give a talk, sing a song, or do anything they are capable of doing. Have special meetings for the young people of the church. Let them know that the meetings are especially planned for them. Make them feel that they are a Dart of the organization, and you will have their fullest cooperation.

I feel that I must bring this question before our ministers: Are we as workers cooperating with the Missionary Volunteer Societies as we should? Some of our workers do not feel that this is their responsibility. They feel that they must take care of the other meet­ings, but that the young people's meetings can be run solely by the young people. This is a sad mistake. I believe our ministers ought to meet with the officers of the societies, encour­aging them in every way possible, and helping them to find new ways and ideas for conduct­ing their meetings. In many cases the youth are left alone to provide their own meetings and entertainment, and this leads to discour­agement and downfall.

Encourage the young people to organize branch Sabbath schools and Sunday schools. Encourage them to have a choir; and in the larger churches, to have a junior choir. This will take them off the streets, and will often lead them to realize that they are a definite part of the church. Inspire as many as pos­sible to go to Junior camp. I have found that the boys and girls who go to the Junior camp have a different outlook on life. Encourage your Missionary Volunteers to carry on Pro­gressive Class work. A Master Comrade class for the older members will bring greater in­terest into the organization. Have a youth's division in the Sabbath school, if possible. Plan it so that it is spicy and full of interest. Use Bible questions and answers, and Bible drills. Many things can be planned in this division that will bring real thrills to the young people.

I believe that it is our duty to give the youth three guiding principles. This can be done only by laboring earnestly and sincerely before them. (I) We must give them a knowledge of God as the Person whom one can trust fully and permanently. When look­ing for leaders, and heroes, the youth demand sincerity and dependability. Our youth, above all, need to learn to trust in Christ. (2) We must give them an understanding of a purpose or a plan to which youth can give themselves wholehearedly and without reservation. God's purpose must become their purpose. Other­wise, aimlessness, superficiality, and formality will deaden their spiritual senses. Religion will become as so much padding to them. (3) Youth must learn through the church how to do what God wants done. Any church whose program for young people is weak, anemic, or inactive will- destroy faith.

There is before us, as workers, the great responsibility of presenting to our youth these irresistible incentives: the attraction of Christ, for He said, "If I be lifted up," I "will draw all men unto Me:" the attraction of Christian fellowship where "love never faileth ;" and the attraction of a great cause and movement for which our young men and young women will live and die.

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By W. C. LOVELESS, M.V. Secretary of the Illinois Conference

January 1940

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