We are counseled in "Gospel Workers "Ministers ofthe gospel should form a happy acquaintance with the youth of their congregations. Many are reluctant to do this, but their neglect is a sin in the sight of heaven." —Page 207.
Among those who are not ignorant of our faith, there are many whose hearts have never been touched by divine grace. Some are delinquent, street-educated youth who come from divided homes where discord, negligence, and low ideals make them feeble in spiritual power. Some have been a disgrace to the community, and are lost in the eyes of the minister. But Mrs. White says that in the time of temptation "the young must be labored for, hunted for, and brought into the fold."—Review and Herald, May 9, 1899.
The way we must work is well illustrated by the picture representing the Good Shepherd. The undershepherd must care for and protect the youth, while the parents follow his leadings. "The shepherd is leading the way, while the flock follow close behind. Carried in his arms is a helpless Iamb, while the mother walks trustingly by his side."—"Gospel Workers," p. 211.
"The youth need more than a casual notice, more than an occasional word of encouragement. They need painstaking, prayerful, careful labor. He only whose heart is filled with love 'and sympathy will be able to reach those youth who are apparently careless and indifferent. Not all can be helped in the same way. God deals with each according to his temperament and character, and we must co-operate with Him."—Id., p. 208.
A minister can be a mighty man for God if he has a host of children and youth with him. "There should be one hundred earnest, faithful laborers ... where now there is one."—"Fundamentals of Christian Education," p. 488. By training a hundred children and youth, the pastor can greatly increase his efficiency and the results of his work.
We know that the youth of this movement who are now in our churches, are destined of God to lead His people to a speedy triumph. Every great movement of earth today aims to mobilize the youth. On behalf of the movement of God's people, we as ministers must be recruiting officers among the children and youth. We must help the young to catch a vision of their part in the final crusade against sin and Satan. The hour is here when the minister must purpose in his heart to do much by the grace of God to bring about the salvation of our boys and girls.
One of our General Conference Missionary Volunteer leaders has told us that fifty-seven per cent of our youth between fifteen and twenty-five years of age are never led to conversion—they are never baptized, they never become members of our church. This challenge will never be met until the minister discharges his full duty toward the young people in the church. We must win the esteem of these youth and children, so that when they are tempted and perplexed, they will come for counsel before they drift along with the tide of evil.
Ways of Winning a Welcome
There are a number of ways in which the minister may work in order to make the children and youth feel that they would be welcome to come to him with their troubles.
1. By having a place in every sermon for the young people. Some churches are partial failures because the minister spends his strength on the older ones, and neglects the youth. Jesus said first, "Feed My lambs." By doing this, the minister may make lasting friends with these little ones, and will be better able to lead them to their Saviour.
2. By giving an equal share of his labors to the young people's society in the church. Here he will find the most enthusiastic form of religious expression. This "early vigor and warmth, consecrated to God, works miracles. Older men have their honored work, and are no less needed than younger, but the living force that conquers the world for God is the fresh enthusiasm of opening life. Once won to God, there is no hesitation or halfhearted service. Youth feels itself only a steward, and gives itself up with unshrinking devotion." —"Entering on Life," by Cunningham Geikie. pp. 12, 14.
3. By helping to direct the social life of the young. No better way can be found to win the confidence of young people than by going with them on a hay ride, a hike, a skating party, a picnic, or some other outing. Children and youth may thus derive incalculable benefit from constant companionship with older people who are much admired and who can show by their example how wonderful the Christian's life can be when lived aright.
"My brethren in the ministry, open your doors to young men who are exposed to temptation. Come near to them by personal effort. Evil invites them on every hand. Seek to interest them in that which will help them to live the higher life. Do not hold yourself aloof from them. Bring them to your fireside; invite them to join you around the family altar. Let us remember the claim of God upon us to make the path to heaven bright and attractive."—"Gospel Workers," p. 212.
4. By preaching Christian education until young minds are set on fire with a determination to have it. Every possible help must also be given, if means are lacking, to make sure that those who desire may attend our Christian schools.
5. By harnessing the tremendous parent power that is going to waste in our churches, in order that well-trained parents might help in creating favorable situations for right conduct on the part of their children. A parent training course will do much to help the youth and children of the church.
6. Most important of all is personal work for every young person, with nothing short of gaining their decision to obey the truth and surrender the heart to God. Anything short of this is failure. We must take the youth separately, and talk and pray with them, and make personal appeals to them, beseeching them to yield their hearts to Jesus. There is a time to do this. Some young people remind us of a farmer's field which has been cultivated and planted, but in which ripened grain has been left unharvested, and is a total loss after much labor has been spent on it to bring it to maturity. The minister must not allow the harvesttime to pass. The youth must be gathered for the Lord at this most opportune period.
"The period of middle adolescence is nature's time for adventure in youth, for deeds of daring. Young people then awaken to high ideals. They are filled with impulses to do good turns and champion great causes. That is the reason why most wars are fought by young men. That is the period in life when strong, lasting friendships are formed, when love dawns in the life. Many live to be spiritual bachelors or spinsters because they did not espouse Christ in that susceptible period."—Christian Endeavor World.
According to the latest statistics, the average peak age for conversions and baptisms among children reared in Seventh-day Adventist homes is twelve years. Adventist youth come to the decision period a little sooner than other youth. The fact is that when properly instructed, very young children may understand their state as sinners and by the grace of God be led into the experience of conversion. We must be prepared to work for the children, or we will miss the mark of a full ministry. Let us not put it off until it is too late.