It’s funny how the last couple times I have talked with our high schoolers about their generation, they often finish my sentence the same way. I’ll say something like, “There’s something about your generation…” and they say something like, “it sucks!” Of course, I quickly follow it up with, “No, it doesn’t,” and add some further thoughts, but this is the idea most of the Millennial generation has about themselves.
How did they get to this point? My wife and I were discussing this the other day. Admittedly, I have not done a ton of research in this area, but it seems like there are more books, blogs, and businesses built around reaching the Millennial generation than any generation before it. Maybe this isn’t actually true (more research will tell me for sure), but it sure seems like it! Everywhere I turn, it seems people are talking about Millennials, and it’s often in a negative way—at least it seems like that from someone who is right on the cusp of being a Millennial, himself.
I think part of the job of a youth worker, therefore, is to stand up for this generation and all those after it. Too often, the church has joined in with the rest of culture in saying that these next generations are so different than those before, and we need to take extra precaution, and all this other stuff. Yes, we need to learn as much as we can about the generations after us, but the signal we often send is that there is something wrong with them. As youth workers, we need to be on the front lines of changing this perception.
I truly believe that these teenagers have the ability to change the world. In fact, that’s one of the things that stands out to me about them—they want to make a difference. They are tired of all the talk. They don’t just want to “do” church anymore. They want to “be” the church. In fact, that’s why many of them are turned off by the church. Our students get more excited over serving on a mission trip more than sitting through a worship service. They want to fight injustice. And on top of this, I strongly believe God wants to use them in this way, and I think you believe this too!
Last night, at our high school ministry, we specifically talked about how we need to be the church. Too often, Christians have thought about the church as a building or program. But it is much more than that. Jesus said that we are a force to be reckoned with in Matthew 16:18. We are to be the living embodiment of God’s spirit in the world. We are to be a people filled with love, generosity, and excitement. And that seems to be what the first church was all about, and God was adding to their number daily! We need to get back to this kind of church.
The last several months have been difficult on our family. We’ve had several deaths in the family this year along with some generally tough times that I won’t take the time to explain. Just know that life has been rough. Do you know who came around us and helped us through it the most? It was the church! More specifically, it was a group of teenagers and youth workers! They were living out an Acts-styled church without even knowing it.
Last night, I saw it again, when one of our team members experienced extreme vertigo during youth group. Our students gathered around, prayed for her, and were generally concerned for her well-being. They were totally understanding when we didn’t proceed with the rest of our planned programming, because her health was more important. In fact, they didn’t leave to go grab snacks and head to their small groups until I told them it was okay to do so. This next generation wants to help!
I see it every summer as we have more and more students excitedly signing up for our summer mission trip with workcampNE. I see it every time we serve our local community through service projects, community events, and more. I see it through students who willingly stand up against their fear of needles to give blood for the first time. I see it in students who regularly invite and share the good news of Jesus in spite of them getting turned down most of the time. I see it in their hearts being broken for all the injustice in our world. In fact, I believe many of them see the world through Jesus’ eyes much better than some older generations.
I know I’m “preaching to the choir” here, because most of you reading this are youth workers, who already get this. It’s largely why you do what you do. My encouragement is to keep doing it! The world is confused by the next generation or two, but you know them. You know their heart. You know they want to make a difference. So, keep training and equipping them to do the work of Christ in the world around them. Encourage them to be the church this world desperately needs. They have the ability to change how the world sees the church, and in turn, how the world sees Jesus!
Keep it up, fellow youth workers!! I know it gets hard sometimes, and I know you don’t always see the fruit of your labor, but know that what you do truly matters! The lives of this next generation need you, they need your encouragement, and they need your belief in them! God wants to use you to make a difference too! Know that I am praying for you and for God to bless your ministry!!