Reaching The Kid Raised In The Church
By: Debbie Foster
Reaching the kid who has been raised in the church is often a youth worker’s greatest challenge. Especially today when you are dealing with third, fourth and fifth generation Pentecostals. John Collins, a denominational youth pastor, shared in his article, Ministry Philosophy For Youth Leaders, some interesting statistics that I feel are very important for us to take note of:
1. 85 percent of the people who do not accept Jesus by the age of 18, never will.
2. 90 percent of the people who do not accept Jesus by the age of 20, never will.
3. The chance that an individual will accept Jesus lessens as the person approaches the age of 60. At that age, only about 1 out of 100,000 people accept Jesus Christ. That’s .01 percent!
Just think that 85 percent of the people who are not reached by the age of 18 will never be reached! If we do not reach the kids that are being raised in our churches by the time they graduate from high school, we probably never will. We’ve got to reach the kids that are being raised in our churches while they are young.
The late Supreme Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “I find that the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand as in what direction we are moving.” What direction are the youth in your church moving? Are they heading in the direction that in a few years will lead them to be strong, solid Christians?
Let’s tackle the issues that trouble our kids and discuss ways that we can have results at reaching and keeping them in the church.
I. Important Issues
A. Curious About The World
For kids being raised in the church, at times the grass looks greener in the world. Satan is giving a bigger and better sales pitch and always trying to make the world look so much better. He paints the world in Technicolor and the church in black and white. Kids, by nature, are experience oriented. They love to try new things. They are wondering, “How will I ever know if I don’t try it?” They are looking for excitement and are going to go where it is exciting.
In a survey taken with high school kids raised in the church, 98 percent of the kids said yes, the world did look appealing, and they did wonder what it is like out there, and most want to at least try some pleasures that were worldly.
B. Pentecostal Dilemma
Kids that have been raised in the church have had continual exposure to Jesus and to the church. For many, the message of truth has been taken for granted. Just because the kid’s parents are good members in the church does not mean that his Christian roots will be set in cement. They must have their own personal experience with Jesus.
They must make their own commitment and cannot live in Mom and Dad’s shadow. If we do not show them the real need of personal commitment, they may fail to come out of the shade of their parents’ shadow and discover the light of Jesus for themselves.
C. Inconsistency And Hypocrisy In The Church
One of the biggest problems with kids raised in the church is that they see all the inconsistencies of people in the church. Kids are very critical, that is their nature. They have eyes that can pick out all the flaws. Young people tend to interpret inconsistency as being hypocrisy.
Youth have questioning minds, they want to know why. Don’t answer questions with, “I told you so.” Give them the right answer and back it up with Biblical proof.
Young people are idealistic. They have a high view of what a Christian should be. They think that if they cannot do it right, then they are not going to do it at all. In their minds, a Christian should be perfect. They don’t like hypocrites and they have purposed in their minds that they are not going to be one. They see someone fail, and they think that person is a hypocrite, even though they may only be a weak Christian.
Kids see weakness as being hypocritical. They need to be taught that we are all human and will mess up from time to time. Christians struggle with problems. They need to realize that the church is a place where people are striving to live a life that is pleasing to God. Yes, there is some hypocrisy in the church, and it will always be there. Teach them that not all sin is hypocrisy. A hypocrite is one who intentionally lives a double standard. Kids need to be taught that when they fail God, He will forgive them and that they have not let everyone down.
D. Pentecostal Traditionalist
We are raising a generation of Pentecostal traditionalists. They are being taught the Pentecostal lifestyle. Some of these kids are holy in appearance, but unholy in lifestyle. They go through all the Pentecostal motions, but are not sold out to the gospel of Jesus.
Kids tend to get comfortable living in a cozy spiritual environment. In one way it is a blessing because it keeps them out of the world, but it also lets them grow used to it all and take it for granted. They develop a callousness from their consistent exposure to the church and its message, and this callousness tends to numb their hearts toward God. They become satisfied with being a half-way Pentecostal.
We’ve got to instill some convictions in them and teach them to have their own personal walk with Jesus. Let’s break them away from this spiritual dullness and get them out of the Pentecostal rut!
E. The Big “D” In Every Pentecostal Kid’s Life
Every kid raised in the church comes to a point in their life that they have to decide if they are going to be totally committed to Jesus. They have been inconsistent in their walk with God and in their convictions and values, searching to find themselves. All that these kids have known is growing up in the church. But at this time in their life, they are weighing everything in the balance.
They know that this Pentecostal experience is for real. As a child many had an experience with Jesus when they received the Holy Ghost. Many simply need to update their experience. They have come to this important time in their life. They are weighing all of their past experiences and are asking is it really worth it and what do I want to do with my life? I believe that if they have had a strong youth program that has shown them that living for Jesus is exciting and working for Him really does pay; and this program has involved them in God’s work and has taken time with them, showing them, “I CARE,” their choice will be to sell out completely to Jesus!
II. Face To Face With The Issues
A. Provide A Program
Offer a program that is exciting and appealing to youth! We are in competition with the world and in a big battle with Satan for these kids’ lives. We have got to reach them at any cost! Make the church the “hot spot” for your kids. Make it the meeting place for them and the center of attention. We always tell the kids that they need to be separated from the world, but for every don’t we tell them, we need to provide a do for them! Don’t prohibit unless you provide.
1. Start Them Out Early
Think about the younger kids in your group and how much influence you have upon them. Start teaching them early. We have a group in our church called J-JAM (Just Jesus and Me) and it is for ages 8-12. We meet once a week before church on Sunday night. We are starting out early in their life and by the time they are in high school, they will be very grounded in Jesus!
We are planting the seeds in them. When the time does come for them to be tempted, a root will be there, the plant will be growing and hopefully they will make a wise decision. Kids make decisions based upon what is happening right here and now. We’ve got to extend beyond what they have now by teaching Christian principles to them. Start early and put it into their brains!
2. Offer Variety
Put some variety in your program. Variety is the spice of life and it sustains interest. It is one of the greatest secrets of youth ministry. Make your program a balanced one. Don’t do the same things all the time. Always be full of surprises and they will be excited about coming to your program.
Jesus did miracles that made the people curious and awestruck! They followed and gathered around Him because they were curious about what He was doing! Make your kids curious about what you are doing in your youth program. Then lead them to a personal encounter with Jesus Christ.
4. Make The Truth Believable
Involve your kids in spiritual things. Don’t expect to change them overnight. A preacher once said, “It’s not how high you jump, but how straight you walk when you hit the ground.” Expose them to a real Jesus experience! You can motivate them by exposing them! By being exposed to things that are spiritual, they will develop an appetite for it.
They are going to hunger toward the world or the church. Create experiences that will make them hungry for the church and Jesus! Their hunger will lead them to a commitment.
Present teaching on their level so they can understand. Lead them to see it, feel it, touch it, and experience it for themselves!
Work on an inch by inch constant growth from your kids. Teach them that living for God by the yard is hard, but by the inch it’s a cinch! Motivate them, be positive always with them. Assure them that they can live for Jesus!
Instill Philippians 4:13 in them, “I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHICH STRENGTHENETH ME.”
4. Provide Outreach
Help your kids feel responsible to reach out to those who were not raised in the truth. Help them to realize that the world respects them and is counting on them to tell them about Jesus. After all, they may be the only Jesus that some of their friends will ever meet.
Most youth will not jump in and work outreach, they have to be encouraged. Show them by example. Do it together as a team. There is nothing like the feeling of picking someone up for church and knowing that they came because you asked them. Then it is a thrill to see them baptized and filled with the Holy Ghost! It’s a great experience that all youth should have.
B. Give Honor To Our Real Heroes
The kids who have stayed in the church and have never been out in the world are our real heroes. We need to give honor to them! For so long, we have lifted up the ones who have come in out of the world and have a great testimony of what God has done in their life. We say, “Look at them, isn’t that great!” Yes, it is great! But what about those kids who have never been out and experienced the world? They are our true heroes!
Look at what God has done for them! He has kept them from ever going out and trying the world! If we don’t give honor to these kids, they may feel that they have to go out and experience the world so that when they come back and pray through, they will have a great story to tell of what God has done for them. It must be emphasized that they have the greatest story to tell.
Consistent kids have hung in there with Jesus giving Him their best. By giving honor to these great kids, it helps them to realize that sin and being in the world is not such a great thing. The great thing is to live for Jesus!
I can remember as a young teenager when several drug addicts and ex-hippies prayed through. They had such a great testimony of what God had done for them! He had brought them from somewhere! Everyone was putting them up and honoring them. But I will never forget a sermon that I heard a young preacher at that time preach. He had been raised in the church and had never been where these other people had been. He talked about how that as a youth, he had never experienced drugs, he had never been drunk, never smoked.
Yes, maybe he had sown a few wild oats, but he had stayed in the church, being very involved in it while growing up. He had never really experienced what the world had to offer. He began to preach to us who had never been out in the world and who were striving
to live for Jesus. He told us we were the real heroes and God had done the greatest work by keeping us out of the world! I will never forget the effect that sermon had upon me as a 15 year-old youth. Let your kids know that they are our true heroes!
C. Work With Parents
Talk with the parents of your kids. Let them know that you are wanting to help their child. Encourage them to be positive role models to their kids. Emphasize to them the importance of their loyalty to the pastor, church and to the youth program. Tell them how important it is for them to always be consistent. Their kids are watching them and will follow in their footsteps. Help the parent to feel responsible for the spirituality of their kids.
III. Youth Leadership
Spend time with your kids. Go the extra mile for them. How can you influence someone unless you spend time with them? Youth want someone to relate to them, to directly effect them, and someone who will cause changes in them.
Youth don’t care how much you know till they know how much you care. When kids feel that you care, they will turn to you for help and guidance and that is when you can have an effect on them! By taking time with your youth, you actually allow them to see Jesus in you and that you live what you teach!
E. G. Von Trutzchler said in The Youth Leader’s Source Book, “When we model the Christian lifestyle, we are showing youth the real-life application and meaning of words like ‘love,’ ‘servanthood’ and ‘obedience. Always remember that your actions speak louder than words! Edgar A. Guest best says it in the following poem:
I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day.
I’d rather one should walk with me than merely show the way.
The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear;
Fine counsel is confusing, but examples always clear;
And the best of preachers are the men who love their creeds,
For to see the good in action is what everybody needs.
I can soon learn how to do it, if you’ll let me see it done.
I can watch your hands in action, but your tongue too fast may run.
And the lectures you deliver may be very wise and true;
But I’d rather get my lesson by observing what you do.
For I may understand you and the high advice you give,
But there’s no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.
-Edgar A. Guest-
Never forget that youthful eyes are always watching you!
You, the youth leader or worker, can have a great effect upon the kids in your group. They want someone to show interest in them and to understand them. Youth are like a plant. If a plant has no sunlight, it will die, but when you give it the right amount of sunlight, it responds to that light and will grow.
Young people are looking for someone to model themselves after and emulate. The influence that is upon a youth while they are a teenager helps mold who and what they will be when they are older. Let them know that you, the leader, are human and that you at times make mistakes. They will relate more to your weakness than your super-ego image. Let them see the real you.
The youth workers’ example and attitude will be the greatest message that those kids will every hear. Aim for perfection and excellence in your youth group. Always remember that half right is still half wrong. Give those kids the very best! They deserve it!
Let’s take the attitude that Kim Kiemel Anderson had for the children that she worked with and loved so much in Boston. She said, “I’m so excited. I’m out to love them to Jesus. And I will. You watch, you wait, you’ll see. Give up? Never. My aim is victory. No matter how hard the road. I have giant of a God, and He and I in love can do it!”
Don’t ever give up on the kid raised in the church who tends to lean toward the world. Keep on trying to involve them and work with them. You and your great God can help to keep the kids raised in your church alive and on fire for Him! No matter how tough the battle gets, DON’T GIVE UP! Keep on fighting! YOU WILL WIN!
This article “Reaching The Kid Raised In Church” By Debbie Foster is excerpted from The Youthworkers Workshop, 1988.