Ten Keys to Reaching Youth - I Cor. 9:22,23
Many young people struggle with loneliness, feelings of worthlessness, relativistic confusions, anger, hurt, meaninglessness, indifference, and unmet needs. Only 12% of people under 18 are coming to church in America. Even worse, only 10% of these people continue going to church when they are adults.
Illustration: America’s youth are facing their darkest hour. Eighty-eight percent of America’s more than 30 million teenagers are un-churched. Of the 12 percent who do currently attend church, 80 percent will stop attending before they graduate from high school. Surveys show that 90 percent of people who give their lives to Christ do so before the age of 30. At every critical turning point in the Old Testament, we see a call to the nation of Israel for prayer and fasting. We believe that in order for America to experience revival, we must see the fulfillment of Malachi 4:6. One of The Call’s main purposes is to see God "turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and turn the hearts of the children to their fathers." We are asking for the fathers’ blessing on the youth of America.
Illustration: 85% of people who come to Christ do so before the age of 18.
Illustration: Nearly 50% of the world’s population is under 25. In most countries in the developing world, 50% of the population is under 15. There are more than 3.5 billion people on the planet who are under 20 years of age. Sadly, if they live to adulthood, many of these dear young people will not become Christians and spend eternity without God. We cannot afford to miss out on the great opportunities before us to reach young people for Christ.
Illustration: Ron Hutchcraft says, "Young people are tormented by loneliness, saturated by sex, fascinated with the dark side of the supernatural and susceptible to suicide. We cannot abandon them.
Ten points define this generation. First: Loneliness runs deep. They are home alone, raised by their music, by television, by video games. They will do anything to get a loving feeling, even if only for a night. A lot of what’s going on sexually isn’t about biology. Its about intimacy, feeing close to someone for a few minutes." (Amsterdam 2000)
Paul gives us insights into reaching them for Jesus Christ. He writes, "To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible menas I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings."
1. Paul knew the power of identifying the heart felt needs of people. Learn how to listen so you can find out where young people of today are expressing their greatest felt needs. Do not just speak to the head without addressing the heart felt needs of young people.
Too many of us talk a lot but we do not feel other peoples’ pain. Do not start talking about facts but talk about feelings so you can identify with where people are at in their present mindset.
Learn to be more empathetic in your interactions so that you can express compassion, sympathy and kindness to those who are longing to be touched by someone who truly loves and accepts them for who they are. Paul wrote, "For it is with your heart that you believe..." (Rom. 10:10)
Ask the Lord for the wisdom, passion and rapport so you can speak to the heart of young people.
2. Paul found non-religious ways to speak in the language of his audience. Young people want to know if you can speak their language. They are interested to know if you can identify on their level and within their cultural framework. Trust the Lord to help you learn from successful youth Pastors the best ways to speak in terms that young people will understand the essentials of the God’s truth.
Paul wrote, "My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power." (I Cor. 2:4) Do not think you have to sound intellectual, but just be Spirit empowered and relevant.
3. Paul used his God given personality and gifts to reach people. Do not think you have to be something you are not to reach youth. Let God’s truth, love and grace come through the personality He has gifted you with.
Ask the Lord to give you the ability to use whatever you have to meet the needs of youth through a loving, caring and understanding relationship. Friends have a way of communicating across cultural barriers because they see through all of our human limitations.
4. Paul would pray for the youth of today as a way of connecting with their spiritual needs. Only prayerful people are able to minister to youth with the power of God’s hand upon them. Do not think you can reach youth without spending protracted time in prayer for each individual young person you want to work with. Paul wrote, "I planted and Apollos watered, but God caused the fruit." (I Cor. 3:5,6)
5. Paul would express His passion for youth through an intensity that would resonate with their own emotional concerns. Do not think you can work with young people without being passionate. Adults like to work objectively without allowing subjective feelings to enter into their business like approach to solving problems. Paul wrote, "The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, and a good conscience a sincere faith." (2 Tim. 1:5)
You do not necessarily have to funny, popular or entertaining as long as you passionate about what you are communicating.
Illustration: I worked as Junior High, High School and College and Career Pastor in three churches. Some of the most effective messages that I have communicated to youth came through tears that showed how much I cared. Only after many years of struggling to present the facts in the right way did I learn that youth are not nearly as interested in eloquence as they are about latching on to something that is worth passionately giving themselves for. We communicate far more from our hearts than from our heads to youth.
Ask the Lord to give you a pure and holy passion for young people so that you can speak on their emotional wavelength instead of being too cold, objective and detached. Young people are turned off by heartless superficiaility of many adults who are not willing to identify with their hurts, struggles and unrealized emotional expectations.
6. Paul spoke with an eternal sense of meaning, hope and inspiration. Young people often think that life is pointless and it is has little meaning. Many of today’s youth wonder why they are here.
When they do not find suitable answers they turn to all kinds of self-destructive habits like drugs, sex or greedy pursuits. Paul wrote, "I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day." (2 Tim. 1:12)
Paul found meaning, hope and fulfillment in Christ and His will. Paul knew that God would give satisfaction, purpose and an eternal sense of hopefulness that would make life worth living.
Paul inspired Timothy at a time in his life when he needed help. Paul assured young Timothy that he would have everything necessary to face life’s difficulties if He would hold on to that which was truly eternally significant.
Paul knew that God infused meaning into every setback, suffering or hardship. No matter what circumstance befell Paul he found Christ’s purpose gave him the strength, courage and confidence to be an overcomer.
7. Paul gave people answers to their present problems. Youth want to know the answers to the questions they are facing today. They are not ready to wait for solutions for problems they will face many years from now. Paul wrote, "God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-discipline." Emphasize the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of each young person.
The Holy Spirit comes to comfort, encourage and personally instruct each believer through the empowering of the word of God. Help young people develop a wholesome devotional life where they can draw upon the strength, inspiration and encouragement found through the empowering Spirit. Paul wrote, "Be filled with the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh... for if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law." (Gal. 5:16, 18)
Help young people know how to gain freedom from fear, want and self-destructive sinful tendencies.
8. Paul went out looking for the lost, lonely and hurting sheep. Do not think that young people will come to your church, go out and find them in their fields. Unless we leave the walls of the church most young people will go on dying. Leave the walls or you are going to leave them lost.
Ask the Lord to give you the wisdom to go events where you can meet, interact and minister to young people on their turf and where they feel comfortable.
9. Paul presented a relationship instead of a religious system to believe in. He said, "I have become all things to all men, so that by all means I may save some." (I Cor. 9:19) The youth of today want need meeting relationships more than any other thing. Help young people to find Jesus as their best friend, Savior and comforter.
Show them how Jesus is interested in all aspects of their lives even the parts that are not so pretty.
10. Paul put the message of the gospel in an attractive package. One of the reasons that young people are buying the devil’s goods is because he is good at marketing. The world, the flesh and the devil offers young people guilt, disappointment, regrets and death but in a package that appeals to them. We have the Jesus as the way, the truth and the life but often times fail to package Him in a way that is appealing to the average young person. Could it be that our packaging is too boring, too dry or not relevant to their cultural norms. Paul used the following six keys:
A). He found common ground with those he ministered too. Similar goals, interests and activities.
B). He avoided a condescending attitude but humbled himself to identify on the level with those he ministered to.
C). He made other feels accepted for who they were. (People do not care how much we know until they know how much we care. (Jack Kemp)
D). He developed a loving and trusting relationship with the people he ministered to by the power of the Spirit.
E). He was sensitive to the needs and concerns of each person regardless of their background or weakness.
F). He looked for opportunities to tell others about Christ as the solution for life’s most perplexing problems.
Some of the above ideas were modified from an article by Ron Hutchcraft "Reaching the Global Youth Culture and Evangelizing Contemporary Youth." (Amsterdam 2000, pp. 303, 305)
One Sunday evening, William Booth was walking in London with his son, Bramwell, who was then 12 or 13 years old. The father surprised the son by taking him into a saloon! The place was crowded with men and women, many of them bearing on their faces the marks of vice and crime; some were drunk. The fumes of alcohol and tobacco were poisonous. "Willie," Booth said to his son, "These are our people; these are the people I want you to live for and bring to Christ." Years later, Bramwell Booth wrote, "The impression never left me."
W. Wiersbe, The Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching & Preachers, p. 185.