This past weekend I had an opportunity to speak on Missions at a youth conference. Though the conference itself was nostalgic for me (I remember attending a similar event as a teenager many years ago), I have to admit, I initially struggled with how I should present Missions to teenagers. Two thoughts immediately came to mind when I thought of youth as missionaries: most teenagers aren’t thinking of participating in missions and most adults, including their parents, prefer it that way. I realize these are broad generalizations, but I am talking about the majorities, not the total. So stay with me here.
It took me several weeks to even formulate what I felt God wanted people to hear about youth as missionaries and I want to summarize it here for those who weren’t able to attend my workshop (in bullet points, naturally).
- God has endowed young people with special gifts for missions ministry that adults rarely have.
- Young people have a powerful advantage in sharing the gospel with other young people, and 50% of those who are yet unreached are under the age of 20.
- Missions is not just for missionaries. If you are a Christian, you have already been called to Missions.
- So what are you waiting for? Go to the world and shine!
The critical point for the youth was that if they weren’t thinking about missions, they need to think about it because as part of multi-generational missions teams, they play a critical role in connecting with people their own age. But as parents of teenagers or leaders in the church responsible for missions, we also need to change our thinking about involving youth in missions. Youth are not a burden to a multi-generational missions team. They fill a role that adults cannot fill adequately: as connectors to people of their own age group. Adults preach the gospel to children through words; children preach the gospel to each other through their lives.
I’ve served in missions long enough to realize we create a lot of barriers to involving youth in missions. We designate specific missions to the young: low risk, low cost, “easy” ministry. This is a disservice to our children. Instead, we need to consider how youth can be integrated into multi-generational missions teams to give those teams greater reach and impact in the world. As parents, we loathe to send our children into situations where there is an element of danger. As natural as that tendency is, what message are we communicating to them? That our faith is so small that we can’t entrust their care over to God? Believe me, I’m not condemning any parents for thinking this way. I don’t like the idea of sending my children into potentially dangerous situations and I have yet to be tested on this. But when the opportunity comes, I need to be prepared to be obedient and faithful and let them go.
The highlight of the weekend for me was Pastor Tim’s altar call, when he asked the high schoolers who would be willing to serve as missionaries or even full time ministry workers. At least a dozen students stood to commit themselves. Looking back at myself at that age, I would have remained sitting. But the commitment of these young people ready to serve the Lord in missions and ministry just blew me away. These are our future church leaders, our future missions deacons, our future missionaries. As I parent, I felt a great sense of joy that no matter what the world tries to tell us, the world is safe in the hands of this generation.
Faithfully pray for this generation, that they will carry out the task they have committed to and that they will courageously shine the light of Christ into the world of darkness.