HOT DOGS AND HAY RIDES
T. Pierce Brown
Many times when we think about getting our young people involved in the activities of the church, we assume that we need to create activities that involve picnics, hay rides, fun and games, junkets of various kinds, and any kind of activities that have little or no meaning of themselves, but which we glorify by such names as “fellowships,” “retreats,” or some other names we have attached to them to try to make them have a “holy sound” to those who might question their validity, but still be enough fun to get the young people involved.
If we can have a “devotional” before, during, or after such activities, it may put some sort of “spiritual tone” on it that will make it all worth while. I have no objection at all to young people in the church being involved in all sorts of things, from roller-skating to baseball. And when I take or accompany young people on such activities, I usually try to have some kind of singing, “devotionals,” or other things that will help to turn their minds to “spiritual” matters.
But it is highly probable that in many cases our “mind-set” is wrong when we begin our thinking and planning. First, we may assume that the young people will not be “involved” in anything unless it is some trivial, easy activity. The truth is that many of our young people are tired of the farce they see in the lives of many of us who are older, who pretend that Christianity is a life of challenge, demanding self-sacrifice and concern for the eternal welfare of other’s souls. But if we never demonstrate any challenge, or show any self-sacrifice or urge them to show some in a particular way, they are left cold. They are bothered by the hypocrisy they see when the preacher eloquently preaches from Joshua 14:12 where Caleb valiantly said, “Give me this mountain,” while all they are ever challenged to climb is a molehill.
When they hear that their preacher is called to lecture at some “workshop” on “The Value and Necessity of Personal Evangelism,” but they neither see him involved in it, nor are they challenged to do it, their spirituality suffers. They need to see us involved in the business of soul saving if they are to be challenged to do it.
Second, we may think of the young people as “the church of tomorrow” who have to be treated like babies so they will stay around long enough to eventually get involved in more serious spiritual work, the most serious of which, to many of us, is something like waiting on the Lord’s table or making a talk. The truth is that many of them are tired of being treated like immature babies, when they already see more clearly the need and value of commitment to Christ than many who have been members of the church (or at least attached more or less loosely to it) for many years.
Surely those of us who have had any experience with the Crossroads andBostonmovements know that one of the great appeals of those movements is that they demand commitment and self-sacrifice. So I am suggesting that every congregation that has young people who need to be “involved,” find some project that has direct and immediate spiritual application, and ask them to participate. For example, I am trying to communicate with almost 2000 students inAfricaby Correspondence Bible Courses. I find it stimulating to challenge young people all over the country to become involved in teaching from 1 to 100 students inAfrica, many of whom are from 13 to 19 years of age. Why don’t you try it with your young people? Do you realize the thrill it would be to many young people to have “pen-pals” inChinaorAfricawith whom they are in direct correspondence, telling them the good news of a Savior who died for them?
Instead of simply taking them on a trip toDisneyLand, an Elder in aCaliforniachurch takes a group of young people toHondurasto see how mission work is actually carried on, and involve them in it. Why don’t you challenge your young people to “take the mountain” and leave the molehills to someone else?