Recently I preached at a church where I was trying to exhort the congregation toward a greater involvement with youth – starting at home, supporting the youth within the church, and then making an impact with kids in the community. I used illustrations that described struggles that not only high-risk youth face, but your average adolescent goes through.
After the service I had a gentleman approach me afterwards and he said, “I have to say, you didn’t describe our kids.” Needless to say I think I didn’t get my point across with this gentleman. I thanked him for his feedback, but mulled the comment over in my mind.
It begs the question, “who are our kids?” Did he refer to his own children? Was he refering to the kids who attend the youth ministry on a regular basis, or all of the youth who call this church home? He certainly wasn’t referring to community kids.
Two things to consider with those who hold such views. One is not realizing that even the kids who are part of the youth ministry, and I would submit, perhaps even within his own family struggle. They have risk factors. The Search Institute which after surveying a million adolescents discovered 40 developmental assets that enhance kids’ ability to transition successfully to adulthood. The target number of assets to have is 31, but the average youth has only 19. Praise God for the 19, but that is way short of the goal. Consider this as well – that is the average kid – not high-risk, but the typical kid that you would bump into when going to a high school (public or private). I would submit to you that many of those kids are even in our churches.
The second goes to my original question – who do we consider “our kids’? I believe we are way to narrow in our view. I believe we need to think broad. I agree with the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I’m just saddened that a certain politician made this view and saying unpopular. I do want to be clear that I believe that God intened parents to be the primary child raisers, but they need support. Parenting is hard, and we do not parent in isolation. When you look at the assets you will see there are many things that are needed out of the community.
Also when you consider that we are to make disciples as we go throughout daily life, love others as we love ourselves, be salt and light where God has placed us that makes it clear that our responsibility for children and youth go beyond our homes and our churches.
So the potential juvenile delinquent that I’ve heard about from the neighbors is one of “my kids.” The kids next door. The youth I serve in the detention center, the kids I minister to at First Baptist Church, youth who babysit my kids, the 17 year-old girl who serves me at Burger King, as well as my children at home are “my kids”. Obviously I’m not responsible for providing for their physical needs, but I do need to be involved in making sure that they have a school, neighborhood, and community that help enhance building assets in their lives. We are called to do that – it is part of being salt in our community. I am also responsible to share the Gospel with kids that God brings into my path as God opens opportuniites, as well as, their parents.
So let’s get busy caring for the needs of “our kids”! If we in the Church don’t take this calling seriously – who will? As always, I’d love to read your thoughts – so post a comment.