Ten reasons why youth are the strategic bullseye of our missional target

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by Brian Sharpe, with an article by Shane Stacey

Here is an article that I read recently that would be good for all of us to read. It was written by Shane Stacey, the National Director for Students Ministries in the Evangelical Free Church. He is highlighting the need for churches to focus on ages 12-22. I am grateful for how you all have supported student and young adult ministries through the years. It has been a focus for Elim and it needs to continue to be a focus.

Please be praying for Common Ground (our Jr. and Sr. High ministry) and Pulse (our young adults ministry) as we seek to work with these age groups, pointing them to Jesus.

“10 Reasons Why Youth Are the Strategic Bulls-Eye of our Missional Target”

by Shane Stacey

The “12-22 window” is quickly becoming the largest unreached people group in the world.  Young people, ages 12-22, must be a central priority of today’s Church.

In Hurt, Chap Clark writes that today’s adolescents operate within an environment in which adults have largely abdicated their responsibility to mold and shape teenagers’ everyday lives causing them to create an “adolescent underworld.”

Is the church contributing to this underworld?   Are we unintentionally abandoning our collective role in reaching and developing young people?  We must awaken to the opportunity before us, seeing youth as the most strategic missional focus of our day!

This is true for several reasons:

This is a “tipping point” generation. The Millennials/Gen Y is the largest generation in history (3 billion under 25 globally; 100 million and climbing in America).

Youth are treasured by God. The birth of every new generation is an expression of breadth of the work of the cross that extends to yet another generation. God calls himself the Father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5), enlisted young people into His redemptive story, and literally mandates the older generation to reach to the next (Psalm 78:3-7).

Youth are wired for passion; looking for a cause. As Kenda Creasy Dean says in Practicing Passion, “Students are looking for something worth dying for and, sadly, all too often we give them pizza.” It is the cause found in the story line of the Scripture that will move young people to live out their unique Ephesians 2:10 purpose in God’s epic story.

Youth are like new wineskins. Youth are incredibly moldable, having far less to unlearn than most adults. If they adopt a disciplemaking way of life in these early years, there is far greater likelihood they will live a lifestyle of multiplication over the next 50 years.

Youth are highly responsive to the gospel. The high majority of those who repent and surrender to Christ do so before their 20th birthday.

Youth are accessible. Nearly 25 million teens will pass through 67,000 middle and high schools before scattering into college campuses, the military and the market place. There is an incredible opportunity for any church that will take the time to collectively pray for, serve and support even just one of their local schools.

Youth are motivated by relationships. One of the core motivations of young people is the need for connection, relationships and community. On top of this, the social media revolution of our day has been invented and driven by young people. Both their motivation for connection and the social economy of the world creates a relationally rich environment through which the gospel can spread.

Youth are globally-connected. Youth are more informed of global news and events than in decades past. This “wired” culture has created a global youth culture that, according to McCann Worldgroup’s article entitled The Truth about Youth, share many of the same core motivations:  community, justice and authenticity. This has created a truly global youth culture.

Youth are kingdom contributors, now!  We need to believe that young people are empowered by the Holy Spirit, and because they have discretionary time and are indigenous to youth culture, they can be ministers in their own right today.

Jesus modeled it for us. If we are still not convinced, then all we need to do is to look at the strategy of Jesus. Most of Jesus’ disciples were teenagers. There is also good reason to believe that most of the 500 that Paul mentions in 1 Cor.14:6 were young people.

Read the full article (PDF).

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Two generations

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By Larry Short

The Young Adults Ministry is launching into a study of 1 and 2 Kings, following up on our recent study of 1 and 2 Chronicles. 1 Kings starts with King David, at 70 years old, burned out on his deathbed. David, the quintessential man’s man, began his ministry as the official King of Israel at 30 years of age. His life before then was lived in the school of hard knocks. His exploits were the stuff of legend.

Sociologists talk about a variety of “generational” benchmarks in our society. You have Generation X, Baby Boomers, the Y Generation, etc. But biblically, in any given lifespan you see basically two generations, and two key functions of people living successfully within those.

Generation 1

The first generation is 0 to 30 years, and it is marked by training and preparation. Jewish men were not considered fully “adults” until age 30. That is when they were permitted to enter their fulltime ministry vocation. Even Jesus was relatively obscure for the first 90% of his life (until age 30).

In most cases the first 30 years were considered preparation and training for a life of service, leadership and ministry. Even if they were married earlier, young men were apprenticed or mentored while in their late teens and early 20s. And 30 was a significant benchmark in their life. Jesus began his public ministry at 30.

Generation 2

While Gen. 6:3 caps 120 years as the span of mortal man’s days – a number which is still pretty much considered an upper limit despite significant advances in medical technology – elsewhere Scripture assigns “three score and 10” as a normal human lifespan. Our average lifespans today are slightly longer than that, but still, most consider those few years leading up to age 70 a good time for retirement!

So if the cradle to age 30 is considered training for life, what do those of us who are somewhere between 30 and 70 supposed to consider this second generation? I think this is a question that we struggle with. We divide it up: times when we are raising children, when we become empty nest and perhaps focus on our career, and when we wind our careers down and try and enjoy retirement.

But from a biblical perspective, this “second generation” of life is much simpler. It’s about service. People who have found what God has called them to do realize the key to a happy, purposeful and fulfilled second generation is service, ministry and leadership: whether of our families, our churches, our business/career colleagues, our communities, or our Lord. And hopefully all of the above!

Too many of us live our second generation simply for ourselves, accumulating things that we think we need to keep us happy and comfortable after we retire. There is nothing wrong with preparing for the future, but in light of a God who tells us “do not worry about what you will eat or drink, or what you will wear,” we must hold such things loosely, and seek to cling instead to the true priorities of service: how we can most effectively invest and use the gifts, talents, energies, time and abilities that God has given us to serve Him, and to serve those around us.

Darlene and I tell the Young Adults that if they are not yet 30, they are still in training for service. For most if not all of them, this training involves getting a real taste of what it is like to serve others. I am thankful that Elim is investing heavily in children, in youth, and in young adults, training them for service.

And when they turn 30, they get the boot! Well, not literally, but that is the point when they are expected to turn in their training wheels for something bigger, something riskier. They need to figure out what God has created them to do – and start doing it, in service of Him and others.

How about you?

Where do you fall? If you are older than 70, perhaps you can relax a bit. We still need your wisdom and mentorship, we need to hang around you so the fragrance of your life will rub off on ours. And hopefully it will be our privilege to serve you in the midst of your retirement and to celebrate the service accomplishments of your life!

If you are 30 to 70, like me, you should be in the middle of what God has called you to do, to serve Him and others. We may change gears many times during those years (God knows I have), but hopefully those changes will be with the goal of being a more effective instrument in His hands.

If you are under 30, you are the future of service! We will invest in you, and we will expect that you will be prayerfully considering how God wants you to apply yourself to the task at hand.

Take an example from David. At 70 years of age, he was burned out and exhausted by a life full of adventure as a friend of God, as a leader, a warrior, and a servant of others. He didn’t rust out, he burned out! And you and I are the richer for it today.

Are we leaving that kind of legacy for the next generation?

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