A lecturer was speaking before an audience of parents and children, and placed various-sized candles on the table before him. Some were short, some long, some partly burned down, some had never been used.
"These candles represent the various members of the family," said the speaker, "from the tiny newborn child to the oldest grandfather. Can any of you guess who is represented by this very short candle?"
"I know," volunteered a girl near the front, "that is the baby of the family."
"No," replied the lecturer, "try again." After some silence another voice was heard. "That's my grandmother. She's ninety-one years old."
"What makes you think this short candle represents your grandmother ?"
"Because she's almost all burned out."
"Right !" beamed the lecturer. "Now who can be represented by this tall candle which is absolutely new ?"
"That must be my new baby brother Tim. He was born last Sunday. He hasn't begun to shine yet."
Yes, how much like tall, unused candles are the youth in our churches. Their life expectancy makes them so very valuable. They are making decisions which determine destiny. They are candidates to follow the leader who offers the most attractive and permanent future. Their courageous, daring spirit is undaunted before obstacles or opposition. When consecrated to God their exclusively youthful qualities produce sturdy soldiers for Christ. What a privilege it is to enlist and train these potential warriors for God.
Jesus gave many evidences of His love for, and confidence in, young people and children when He sojourned upon earth. Speaking of the rich young ruler, the record says, "He loved him." He chose several in early life to be among His disciples. Paul chose Timothy, when he was a mere youth, to be a teacher.
"The Lord has appointed the youth to be His helping hand."—Testimonies, vol. 7, p. 64.
"He [Satan] well knows that there is no other class that can do as much good as young men and young women who are consecrated to God. The youth, if right, could sway a mighty influence."—Messages to Young People, p. 204.
Recognizing the high estimate Heaven places on youth, we should realize how imperative it is that faith in Christ be made practical and attractive to them. A church which fails to hold its youth should be deeply concerned. Although thousands of our sons and daughters are accepting Christ and adding their strength to the church, too many are unresponsive to the spiritual appeal. According to surveys in various areas in North America, from four to six out of every ten young people whose parent or parents are church members, either never accept Christ, or withdraw during these destiny-determining days.
The elder of a church of 289 members was asked how many young people he had. He replied, "Not enough to conduct a Missionary Volunteer Society." When an actual survey was made 229 youths, ages six to twenty-five, were discovered. The churches officers were amazed at the findings and an intense program was initiated. Statistics prove that two young people are connected with the families of the church for every three church members.
Every minister, no matter what his responsibilities, would be a stronger minister if he were prepared to work successfully with and for youth. Pastors, administrators, treasurers, teachers, chaplains, medical workers, department leaders, and evangelists either attract youth and inspire them in Christian service, or are shunned by youth and thus are crippled in their ministry.
What are the qualities possessed by men who are dealing successfully with youth ? First, a God-given love for young people and children. Second, a sincere and fervent fellowship with Christ, including personal victory over sin. Third, a strong, buoyant, cheerful, inspiring personality. Fourth, a patient and sympathetic understanding of youth and their struggles. Fifth, freedom from extremes. Sixth, physical fitness, mental alertness, a knowledge of a variety of skills. Seventh, a natural and developed friendliness and sociability. Eighth, carefulness in dress and speech. Ninth, a habitual unselfishness. Tenth, a style in personal conversation and public ministry which appeals to young people. There are five distinct fields of youth endeavor to which the eyes of prospective workers may be turned.
I. EVANGELISM FOR YOUTH.—The Missionary Volunteer secretary is, or should be, essentially a youth evangelist. His objective is to win and train all the sons and daughters of the church in the service for Christ. The late Elder Montgomery said, "There is no more fruitful field than the young people in Seventh-day Adventist homes. The most fruitful field I know of in all the wide, wide world is among our own young people in our churches." Special devotional weeks in our schools and churches should culminate in decisions for Christ and baptisms into the church.
There is another area in which to direct evangelism, and that is the thousands of youth who live in our cities and villages apart from the Seventh-day Adventist church. Some attend the regular evangelistic meetings ; sonic come in through radio and Bible correspondence schools ; but rich fruitage would surely result through public meetings promoted and advertised for the avowed purpose of attracting young people. Surely God has His thousands of earnest youth who will hear the message and dedicate their talents to the Advent Movement. The flourishing "Share Your Faith" crusade is developing a legion of experienced personal workers to unite with a man of God whose heart is stirred to evangelize the great masses of youth.
The Master Comrade training contributes much to the preparation for child evangelism. Camp meeting is a challenge to junior youth leadership. Men and women who are alert and aggressive find this a fruitful season among junior youth. The summer training camp program of Missionary Volunteers is now twenty-two years old, and gratifying results are being obtained. Camping is here to stay, but we have not sounded the extent of its possibilities for good. Leaders are needed who will push back the horizons thus far accepted, and discover new frontiers of achievement in these summer camping periods.
Now another area is opening to the junior youth leader. It is the year-round activity program for junior boys and girls. Other organizations have fostered these weekly meetings for years. Civilization in its progress seems to provide the children with more leisure time. Parental control and guidance seem to be waning. Into this breach comes a church-centered activity program for junior youth. This plan supplements the J.M.V. Society of the church school by affording opportunity for hikes, swims, overnight camping, special events, excursions, crafts, hobbies and M.V. classes in a setting of uniform voluntary enlistment, ceremony, and ritual. Leadership for this new enterprise must be creative and enterprising. When this project is underway and properly staffed in hundreds of our church communities, another cord will be woven, binding the youth to the church.
V. LEADERSHIP OF LAYMEN.—Standing nobly in leadership responsibility are many laymen. These are men and women with talent and training who carry on their daily work and devote many hours a month to the interests of the youth organization. Many of these gallant leaders regret that they did not secure additional training while in the academy or college so they could increase their contribution to the church.
We as ministers may well suggest to Christian businessmen, housewives, craftsmen, tradesmen, salesmen, and teachers that they dedicate some time each week to youth leadership. To those now in preparation may we suggest that while you are following the training in your specialty, you take time and thought to prepare for youth leadership, either junior or senior. There is a premium on good leaders. The demand far exceeds the supply. Divine predictions point to an important role on the part of youth in the final scenes of the drama of the ages. Note these statements :
"In the closing scenes of this earth's history, many of these children and youth will astonish people by their witness to the truth, which will be borne in simplicity, yet with spirit and power."—Counsels to Teachers, p. 166.
"Many a lad of today, growing up as did Daniel in his Judean home, studying God's word and His works, and learning the lessons of faithful service, will yet stand in legislative assemblies, in halls of justice, or in royal courts, as a witness for the King of kings."—Education, p. 262.
What a privilege to be instrumental under God in preparing young lives to bear , their final witness in the great controversy.