The Young Believer and Youth Work: The Heart of Christ

Teaching children about the Savior and His Word is a privilege given by God. If we are going to effectively influence young lives for Him, we need to make sure that our attitude toward them, and our interaction with them, reflects that of our Lord. Matthew, Mark, and Luke record how our Lord Jesus responded when parents brought their children to Him to lay His hands on them and pray. He had been in deep discussion with the Pharisees, and His disciples rebuked the parents for bringing their children to Him, but Jesus was “much displeased” with his disciples (Mark 10:14). He called the children to Him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:16, ESV). His attitude was welcoming and loving, and through His behavior He showed how much He valued them. As followers of Christ, we need to do the same.

Taking Up The Challenge

Working with youth can be challenging. It takes initiative, ingenuity, and a willingness to become personally involved. Energy and stamina are required. The truths of Scripture need to be presented in a clear, yet interesting way that is appropriate for the age of the children being taught. The needs of each age group must be considered when teaching them. Teenagers face difficulties that are unique to their stage of life and the culture in which they have grown up. Teachers need to be sensitive to these needs; the lessons for teens must be relevant and compelling. The background and culture of the children also have an impact on how they respond to the gospel. Some have been brought up without moral standards and without any knowledge of God. They may not understand Biblical terms with which we are familiar, so it is important to use vocabulary that the children understand, or we must explain gospel terms as we use them. Solomon says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Prov 25:11). Most importantly, children need to understand the character of God and the great love that God has for them. They will not believe it if we do not model it.

Teaching By Example

Children easily detect insincerity and hypocrisy. What we say should match how we live. Being a good example is paramount. As the youth get to know us, they should see our integrity of character and love for God and His Word. If we are going to make the truths of the Bible exciting to children, they need to be exciting to us. We are not just telling Bible stories; through the stories used and the lessons taught, we are conveying eternal truths revealed to us by Almighty God. We need the Spirit of God to direct our words and guide us. Having a close relationship with God is vital. We cannot make the Christian life appealing to children if we are not enjoying our Lord and seeking our satisfaction in Him. The apostle Paul exhorted Timothy on these principles when he said, “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1Tim 4:12).

Treating Children With Love

The gospel outreach of children’s work should be done by those who are committed to reaching out in love, not by grumpy men and women who are ready to pounce on children for the slightest misdemeanor. We never read of the Lord treating children with impatience or acting like they were insignificant; neither did He condone His disciples’ behavior in rebuking the children for coming to Him. He welcomed them and took time for them. If our Lord thought it was important to spend time with children, shouldn’t we? If His care for them was genuine, shouldn’t ours be genuine? When we teach them from God’s Word, our treatment of them should be like our Savior’s – loving, welcoming, and gracious. They need to know that we truly care about them and want them to have the vibrant life and freedom Christ has given us. Children can and will be unruly, and will need firm, yet loving guidance that is God honoring. Sisters play a huge role in working with youth. Many lives have been eternally changed by tender, patient sisters who possessed a deep love and burden for youth. Proverbs 31 describes the virtuous woman, “She openeth her mouth with wisdom, and in her tongue is the law of kindness.”

Transmitting Truth

Teaching children truths from God’s Word not only benefits them, it also may affect the future of divine testimony. The youth of this generation will be the adults of the next. They need to see us living lives of faith, lives rooted in Christ’s love, so that our words will have an impact on their lives. Patience and continuance are needed, since we often do not see the immediate results of the seed sown, but once the truth has been planted, it is there, and God can use it any time in their experience. Timothy is a good example of this. He was taught the Scriptures in his youth, and by grace, God saved him and molded him into a true man of God for the blessing of God’s testimony. In most situations, teaching children is a test of endurance. Whether it is a consecutive weeknight outreach effort or a Sunday school class, we are in it for the long haul. We need to pray that God will give the necessary strength to continue. It is not a trial to teach children, but it can be arduous and difficult at times, so endurance is needed. The same truth that Paul encouraged the Corinthian believers with is applicable to those who teach children. “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1Cor 15:58, ESV).