Reaching the Hearts of Youth

Practical Training Plans and Methods for Theological Students

By LAWRENCE A. SKINNER, Associate, Secretary of the M.V. Department

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.

II. COUNSELING OF YOUTH.—To maintain the ideals and principles set forth in the Bible, and befriend youth leads to counseling. Too often young people are misjudged by the attitudes they assume when at heart they are seriously facing sober issues and are desirous of guid­ance. Those who have ministered in our acade­mies and colleges know of the demand there is for counsel. Men and women should prepare for this field specifically. It combines very well with public work. There should be a happy medium between the confessional of the Catho­lic Church and the ultramodern psychoanalysis technique. Youth have some snarls to untangle, some puzzles to solve ; and it is often the un­prejudiced, consecrated counselor who brings light out of darkness.
III. PASTORING OF YOUTII.—During the last few years some of our larger Adventist com­munities have secured the services of an assist­ant pastor. Usually this is a young man, and his duties have included the fostering of the young people's work. There are great possibil­ities in this field. Thus the Missionary Volun­teer Society has the sponsorship of a young minister whose expert skill can keep the craft afloat through many a rough sea. This youth pastor can guide and contribute to the success of the social and recreational activities of the youth in the area. Furthermore, there are won­derful opportunities for carrying on evangelism in surrounding communities, training and di­recting the young people as assistants. This op­portunity as pastor of youth becomes a most favorable background for broader fields of youth leadership in the future.
IV. JUNIOR YOUTH LEADERSHIP.—Here is a specialized field of endeavor that is assuming larger proportions. Early adolescence is not only the time of restless activity but also the 0-olden hour of decision for Christ. Statistics reveal that among Seventh-day Adventists more baptisms occur at the age of twelve than at any other point in the development of youth. The successful worker for this age must know how to lead boys and girls to Christ, and at the same time have an exhaustless supply of proj­ects and plans. These must be presented with enthusiasm- and changed briskly when neces­sary so as to keep active minds tied to his lead­ership.

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.

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By LAWRENCE A. SKINNER, Associate, Secretary of the M.V. Department

January 1949

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