Monday, April 6, 2015

Generation Gap

If you've ever looked closely at the New Testament you might notice the conspicuous absence of youth ministers, youth groups, and youth rallies.  Not to say that these things are somehow against the teaching of the New Testament, just that they aren't there.  Like many other things, including song books and church buildings, they are simply a convenient way to fulfill the commands of the Lord. 

These youth focused activities and professions are intended to fulfill two different commands. First, they try to accomplish the Biblical goal of teaching our kids to know the Lord (Deuteronomy 6).  Second, they try strengthen the faith of young Christians. (Hebrews 5:12-15) Their success or failure as tools to fulfill these commands is up for debate.  I suspect their efficacy depends much on the local church's size and culture. 

These things Dana with mother and grandmother 2don't worry me.  What does worry me is that we might neglect a mode that God did specify because we are focused on the "professional" and "modern" ways that have become convenient to us.  A prime example is older women teaching the younger women (Titus 2:3-5).  Although I have heard of congregations with "mentoring" programs, more often I see the ages segregated and the sexes unsegregated: ie boys and girls are taught together with kids in a limited age range (about 4 years).  What would happen if instead at least part of the time our youngest Christians were learning with our older ones?

My own congregation does this in two ways.  Instead of having a sermon on Sunday evenings, we have an interactive class which includes the entire congregation.  Everyone is allowed and encouraged to participate.  Our Ladies Bible class is another venue that is multigenerational.  Any girl old enough to want to sit through the monthly ladies Bible class is welcome.  We regularly have two of our 3 teens attend.  I am seeing the fruit of it in my daughter's life as she comes to know the women of the church deeply and benefits from their Bible knowledge, faith and example.

I want to strongly encourage you to make intergenerational women's study a part of your young girls' lives.  It is at least one way to fulfill the principle of older women teaching the younger women (Titus 2:3-5).  Although I know that it can be difficult to pull kids away from their "own" classes, a quarter of Bible Study is surely not more than most congregations can do. If you teach your Ladies Bible class, you can suggest that the teens join you for your next class.  

If you aren't the teacher talk to your elders, the deacon in charge of education or your youth leader, you might be surprised at the response.  Precious relationships that can sustain kids through hard times and help older folks have hope for the next generation of Christians are built in such studies. 

Our teens need no more coddling than any other young Christian.  Although I don't want to see the issues that are important to them ignored or glossed over, I suspect that they need the same foundational faith-building topics as any other newly baptized believer.  Finding material that fits them as well as it does the women of 30, 50, and 80 in our Ladies Bible Class is probably the biggest challenge, but on Wednesday we'll be reviewing Purer in Heart by Heather Pryor, the first ladies bible class book I've ever read designed to meet this challenge head on. 


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