We sometimes speak of the young as the “next generation” of disciples. This is certainly an accurate statement. As one generation ages and then passes on, the next must take up their work and continue the struggle. If the Lord does not return, there will come a time when we all will have passed on and another generation of workers will be needed to fill pulpits, teach Bible classes, and reach out to the lost in our communities. Our children are the next generation.
However, I am concerned that this language may sometimes leave the wrong impression with our youth. Many young people believe their work for the Lord is still largely in their future. While they may do a few token tasks we assign, they are not responsible to be active in the Lord’s work until they are adults. I remember preaching a sermon several years ago and emphasizing the importance of welcoming guests at our services. I urged our members not to run out the door, but stick around and greet a visitor. However, as soon as the service was over, I noticed a group of our teens headed out the side door. In Bible class the next Wednesday I asked them why they had failed to apply the lesson to themselves. They replied, “We didn’t know you were talking to us!”
At that moment it struck me that perhaps we have been deficient in what we have been saying to our kids over the years. It is certainly true that, as we grow up and become adults, our level of responsibility and kingdom work increases. But let’s not forget that young people are disciples too. We need to be sure that we’re not selling our kids short, underestimating their kingdom value, and worst of all, expecting less from them than God expects.
Young people in the Bible did amazing things for the Lord. Joseph resisted the advances of Potiphar’s wife. David was willing to go face-to-face with a giant. Josiah led a spiritual revival in Judah. Daniel refused to be corrupted by his wicked surroundings. We must STOP talking about our kids as the next generation. Young people must STOP seeing their work for the Lord as being only in the future. We need to work together to figure out how we can activate this generation for kingdom service right now!