by Roger D. Campbell
We thank the God of heaven that there are youth in His church who love Him and make their best effort to live a godly life. It is both refreshing and encouraging to see their youthful zeal. If young folks are in the Christ, then I do not look at them as the church of the future – they are just as much God’s child as I am, and they are the church of the present. True, they may be future leaders in the church, and they may outlive older members and keep the church going strong, but I dare not count them as low-level or inferior members of the body.
What are the spiritual needs of our youth? What do they need in their lives that can help them to bear spiritual fruit and be ready to go to heaven after their earthly journey ends? I do not have a magic wand that can guarantee 100% spiritual success, but here are five fundamental needs of today’s young saints.
(1) To see good examples from adult Christians – Paul told the brethren in Philippi, “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:9). We who are older owe it to our younger brothers and sisters to set the same kind of example that Paul did. As the same apostle instructed Titus, “in all things showing thyself a pattern of good works” (Titus 2:7), so our lives ought to be an exemplary model for our youth. As we teach them God’s truth, we must also live it in our own lives (Romans 2:21-23).
(2) To be loved – That is a basic human need at each stage and age of life. Our youth may never directly say to us, “Please love me,” but, in fact, they have a tremendous need to be on the receiving end of agape love – the kind of love that wants what is best for them. They need to know that we really care for them, yes, that we “will very gladly spend and be spent” for them (2 Corinthians 12:15). They deserve to be encouraged and complimented for good efforts. Because our heart truly longs for them to have the most fruitful life in Jesus (Colossians 1:10), we must be committed to telling them what they need to hear for their personal and spiritual development. That includes discipline in two phases: first, education about proper conduct in God’s sight, and second, when needed, a word or action that warns or rebukes. Jesus rebukes and chastens those whom He loves (Rev. 3:19). There are times when our youth need “tough love,” but let us always approach them with respect and compassion.
(3) To be given opportunities to use and develop their talents – Servants of the Lord, at every age level, have abilities. As the Parable of the Talents shows us (Matthew 25:14-30), our Lord wants us to use for His glory the abilities and blessings which He has placed in our hands. Yes, He wants us to be faithful stewards (1 Corinthians 4:1).
Like those of us whose youthful days are a distant memory, young saints need to use and develop their talents. That takes time. It also takes experience, but one cannot gain experience unless he/she is granted opportunities. Let us make our greatest effort to get our youth involved in the work of the local church – involved in visiting widows, performing tasks around the church building, reaching out to members who have left their first love, distributing literature, leading in worship (if brothers), helping teach kids, and many other aspects of the Kingdom. Let us take time to work with them and train them. It will pay great dividends both now and in the future.
(4) To develop close friendships with other faithful members of the Lord’s church – Studies indicate that when young disciples of Jesus have a close friendship with not just one, but several other young saints, they have a much higher probability of remaining faithful to the Lord through the trials of life that inevitably will come their way. While “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.” (1 Corinthians 15:33), it is equally true that close camaraderie with those of “like precious faith” (2 Peter 1:1) can be a wonderful leavening factor, provide encouragement, and even supply “positive peer pressure” to keep a person from making foolish choices. Parents, you are making an invaluable investment in your child’s future when you provide him and his close Christian friends with opportunities to spend time together.
(5) To develop their own personal faith –This is the key, brethren. It is not simply of major importance, it is the key! The Bible says that what overcomes the world is our faith (1 John 5:4). The just/righteous live and please God by faith (Hebrews 10:38,39). Since faith is produced by hearing God’s word (John 17:20; Romans 10:17), then this must be the focus of our efforts! We must get our youth into God’s Book – teach them, indoctrinate them, ground them in the truth. The four matters that I have already mentioned above will be of no value unless a young sister or brother develops her/his own faith; not an inherited faith, but a personal faith that is a blend of conviction and trust that leads to obedience.
Do you know what? As I look over the above list of five things that I scribbled down today, I realize that even though I am closer to sixty years of age than I am to fifty, I have a lot in common with my youthful sisters and brothers – my spiritual needs are basically the same as theirs. That is correct. While I may have to face somewhat different challenges at this stage of my life, in reality, if I am going to serve my Lord faithfully, then my spiritual needs must be met – the very same needs that our youth have. Hmm, I must be special, too! Let us pray for our youth and support their efforts to live for the living God.