The following is a sermon I prepared several years ago when I was still an active lay preacher and before experiencing a spiritual turnaround, maybe I should say “a downturn”. I never got to deliver the message. It has been gathering dust in a computer file, but as a life-long youth leader and coach I continue to believe strongly in its premise.
Make no assumptions about biblical literacy. Kids today are very open spiritually, but religion does not imply Christianity. Even church kids are adopting the notion that there are many valid expressions of faith and roads to God. As parents and youth leaders today it is imperative that we know what we believe, and through relationships and open ears, earn the right to challenge the thinking of young minds.
Trust me, teens want to know who God is and what He says about himself.
Technological advances, geopolitical changes and shifting relationships have caused young people to expect change -- even to become comfortable with it. As a result, leaders have more freedom than ever to make immediate, effective changes in programs and processes to discover what works with their group. The drawback is an unusually high standard of what is worth their attention, so programs must keep moving with little dead space or predictability.
Today’s student, very literal and visually oriented, responds well to plain talk about personal, practical issues and experiences, especially when learning is hands-on and incorporates contemporary media and technologies. Although the speed and accessibility of information has conditioned students to make decisions with less thought and reflection
This means that teens are often intolerant of anyone who draws a line in opposition to anything culturally acceptable. While God’s unchanging truth is always relevant, it’s vital that approaches to students be blended and balanced with grace. Since they want to reach out to a broader spectrum of people, they will be more likely to embrace ministry that demonstrates real, active compassion. This must mark an unwavering stance on biblical principle, or even sincerely searching students will tune out.
Immorality at least acknowledges a standard of deviant behavior -- amorality often concedes no standards at all. Over 60% believe that you cannot know absolute truth. One third say that something is morally/ethically right if it works and is perceived as good. Different people, in the same situation, can define truth in totally conflicting ways—and both still be considered right.
The principles behind the precepts, with God’s loving care and unchanging character as the basis of right and wrong, need to be emphasized along with reasoned discussions on choices, consequences, and spiritual cures. Dare to ask the tough questions the world will confront them with, and help them develop a faith that is not deterred by deviant standards. Training that equips young people to share absolutes in a morally and spiritually pluralistic society is essential.
Think about it -- we (families and churches) have been given the awesome privilege of leading, training, and equipping what may be the final generation. That is the responsibility that lies before us now that we are well into a new millennium. It is most certainly a disciple-making challenge to be taken very seriously.
Young people do not learn through the process of osmosis…It takes strong, committed and principled adults to knowingly mold their minds and to lead them to the truth that they are more than receptive to.
Surely I am not talking to myself, as I so often do!?
With more faith in the youth of today than I confess to having in most fellow adults, I remain guardedly optimistic.