A minister started a training class for children at the congregation where he preaches. This was not a class for the teenagers, it was for the children. Some of the children in the class were very young...perhaps kindergarten or first grade.
One of his assignments to the boys was that they would have to read parts of the book of Hebrews in front of the congregation. This absolutely terrified one of the younger boys, according to his mother. But this boy also was determined to complete the assignment.
So what is a young boy, trying to read a Scripture publically, but scared to death, to do? He was encouraged to practice in front of his family...but that’s really not a large enough audience.
One afternoon his mother heard this boy practicing his reading in his room. She peaked in and saw that he had set up all of his stuffed animals (and he had quite a lot) and was using them as an audience.
When I read this story, it reminded me that our children, even the youngest ones, are capable of doing GREAT things for God. But it also reminded me that they need our encouragement if they are going to reach their potential.
Often we see the value and importance of encouraging our youth in their physical pursuits (their school work, athletics, other extra-curricular activities), but we fail to grasp the value and importance of encouraging them in their spiritual pursuits (reading the Bible, prayer, working on their relationship with God, etc.).
Then, when they get involved in things that we know they know they should not be involved in or they grow up and leave the church, we wonder what happened.
Truth be told, even those who grow up in homes and congregations where they are encouraged in spiritual pursuits can be “dragged away and enticed” by Satan’s schemes (see James 1).
And it is NOT about insisting that our young men grow up to be a preacher and our young women grow up and marry a preacher. It is NOT about raising “super Christians.” It IS about raising our children to be faithful servants of God.
So, parents, what have you done lately to encourage spiritual growth in your kids? If they are young, do you have a daily time when you read the Bible to them? If they are older, do you encourage them to read their Bible every day? Do you ask them about what they read and how it applies to them?
Do you pray with your kids? Not just before a meal or before bed...do your kids know they can come to you with a request and you will stop whatever you are doing and pray with them?
(Just for the record, my toes are black and blue too after the last two paragraphs.)
Congregation, what have you done to encourage spiritual growth in our young people? Do you encourage the young men who help with leading our worship services? Do you try to help the young ladies find ways that they can serve? Do you encourage our young people to be involved in the life of the congregation...or are they “just kids”?
Do you make an effort to get to know our young people? Do you go out of your way to talk to them? Do you ever ask them how they are doing and see if there is something they would like you to pray about for them?
What sort of example are you setting for our young people? Have you ever opened up your home and hosted a devotional for them?
So often we hear the youth referred to as “the church of tomorrow.” They are not “the church of tomorrow,” they are a part of the church of TODAY.
There are so many competing forces. There are so many things in the world vying for the top spot in our young people’s lives (and all our lives).
If we don’t start encouraging our youth to read their Bibles to their stuffed animals, there just may not be a church “tomorrow.”