"THERE IS a special work to be done for our young people by those bearing responsibilities in local churches throughout the conferences." --Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 77. What a tremendous challenge this presents before us all. The devil bids high for the souls of young people because if he can steal them away from the church he has destroyed a lifetime of service for Christ.
Often comments are made such as: "I don't understand them," "I can't communicate with them," "The generation gap is too wide," "I can't stand their long hair, their weird approach to religion," "They don't dress according to Christian standards."
Some of these comments may have some validity but usually they are an exaggeration and an excuse to remove us from this all-important responsibility. Jesus died for the sinner. He came to minister to the weak and to lift up the fallen. It is for the youth He died as well as the old.
Keep Truth on High Level
As a minister's wife and having been involved with youth for more than 20 years, I have increasingly felt a desire to convey to others some of my observations. My heart has been saddened by some of the concepts we use in attempting to reach our young people. How difficult it is to open the Word of God to young people after one-half hour of "hepped up gospel music," with clapping of hands and all the rest.
"Do not divest the truth of its dignity and impressiveness by preliminaries that are more after the order of the world than after the order of heaven." --Evangelism, p. 148.
Why do we feel we have to put on an entertainment in order to convey truth and the beautiful gospel Christ has to offer?
"In their efforts to reach the people, the Lord's messengers are not to follow the ways of the world. In the meetings that are held, they are not to depend on worldly singers and theatrical display to awaken an interest."--Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 143.
"In my very first labors the mes sage was given that all theatrical performances in connection with the preaching of present truth were to be discouraged and forbidden." --Evangelism, p. 137.
Why do we feel we have to talk their language in order to communicate with them?
"Never bring the truth down to a low level in order to obtain converts, but seek to bring the sinful and corrupted up to the high standard of the law of God."--Ibid.
Prepare short sermons meeting needs of young people filled with the love and gospel of Christ. Make the sermon Biblical in presentation. Let them bring their Bibles and give them an opportunity to use them during the discourse. The source of power is in the Word of God. The use of the Bible gives them something to do and holds their attention. They love to use their Bibles.
In any series always have some preaching of the Word, coupled with instruction and a witnessing program whenever the time or series may permit.
Don't be afraid to hold high ideals. Lift the youth up. They want a better way.
In planning for a speaker check him out first. Don't allow any Tom, Dick, or Harry to come into your meetings who is sup posed to "set the youth on fire." You may really end up with a "hot time." Remember, standing in the sacred desk is an important responsibility and even though some dear brother may have had a tremendous conversion experience, he may still not be qualified to take an entire service in any series, including a camp meeting series, where this seems to so often happen.
Choose a committee of young people before the meeting begins. Lay down some guidelines such as the kind of music to be used. Instruct the pianist to play the right kind of music. Instruct them regarding proper dress. Even if they come in from work to meetings at camp meeting or Week of Prayer, tell those who are leading out they must dress appropriately. I have seen young people lead out in dirty jeans, young men sing or play instruments with open shirts and tanned chests--exposed girls with hip-huggers and short-waisted tops with bare midriff. Our young people need guidance. If told ahead of time they will be glad to cooperate, but surely if after the meetings have begun someone has to "lower the boom," it could hurt feelings and destroy enthusiasm. An ounce of planning is worth a pound of corrections.
Set a spiritual atmosphere. Have every part of the program directed to setting the stage for preaching the Word.
Choose a spiritual soft-toned theme song to also create a reverent atmosphere.
Do not condescend to reach them. Let them know you mean business and will not tolerate total irreverence. In your discipline let them know you love them and have a burden for their souls, but a few rebellious intruders can not be allowed to remain and disrupt the meeting. They will respect you in the long run.
Be consistent! Set the right example.
If using a tent, make it first class, not just a few sloppy pieces of board and canvass thrown together. Make it look special. A little paint and a few flowers and an exciting backdrop, all tend to create an impression that some body really cares. This is true wherever the meeting is being held. I remember that for one of my husband's meetings, one of our ministers painted a backdrop of two young people playing a game with the devil standing over them. My husband called this series, "The Came of Life." How impressive this backdrop was! Have a theme and tie it all together with a backdrop.
Utilize youth participation, interviews, testimonies, ushers, usherettes, music.
Incorporate a discussion group in a camp meeting series. Divide into small groups attempting a discussion in a large group defies the concepts of group dynamics.
Be careful not to be too casual, attempting to give a very informal attitude to meetings. If you do allow a casual approach you will have a difficult time playing sergeant- at-arms. A lack of reverence for spiritual things will be created. On the other hand, don't saturate the meeting with adult formalizing. Find the God-given balance. There is one!
Steer away from a long dialog of someone's experience with drugs or their wicked way of life before they were converted. Use these people to give a testimony but be very careful it doesn't glamorize that side of life.
Have a little time together after the meeting for those who would like to stay for prayer bands. Many of you know this period as "afterglow." Sing choruses and then divide into groups of three or four for prayer. Have them pray for the meetings, for other youth, and for themselves. Many precious experiences and victories have been won in just such a time.
Prayer and Counsel
Spend time with them. Listen to them when they want to talk. Give godly, prayerful counsel.
Most of all pray and pray and pray have others not directly connected with the meetings pray for the Holy Spirit to be poured out and everything done to the honor of Christ.
"God will do a great work for the youth, if they will by the aid of the Holy Spirit receive His word into the heart and obey it in the life. He is constantly seeking to attract them to Himself, the Source of all wisdom." --Messages to Young People, p. 66.