I’ve been thinking a lot about the plight of our young people in this country. Over the weekend I attended a discussion with 21st century leaders at the International Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro, NC.
The discussion was led by a diverse panel of senior college students who are also the Presidents of their prospective Student Government Associations.
The panelists were:
Brittany Carroll, a white female of the private school, Greensboro College (which is supported by the United Methodist Church)
Hershelle Gaffney, an African American female of the private, all girls Historically Black College and University (HBCU), Bennett College (also supported by the United Methodist Church)
Daren Lipman, a Jewish male and advocate for the Gay/Straight Alliance of Guilford Technical Community College in Jamestown, NC
Several other college students were in attendance as these students shared their concerns, hopes, dreams, and fears about the future. They each echoed the following statements that were common on all three campuses:
- Most college students are passionate about outreach and helping others who are less fortunate (These students shared stories of their peers advocating justice surrounding AIDS and educational scholarships just to name a few efforts.)
- The college students have real concerns about their self worth and how they can build relationships with those in the community to support positive change.
- Each spoke about the power and pressure of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (GLBT) community on campus.
- These young people uphold the values of unity and diversity.
- Like most adults, they are also challenged when faced with the realities of how to spend their time and money. Financial hardship is a real concern. They have a real fear that when they graduate, jobs will not be available for them because they lack work experience.
I asked open-ended questions about the conversations that are taking place on their college campuses, particularly concerning international affairs, issues of race, their current relationships with older generations, and the role of the church in their lives.
I may have to write another post concerning their responses and my reflections on their responses, but my questions and the focus of today’s discussion is, “Do you have an answer to the issues our young people are facing everyday? Are you speaking to the hearts of these young people? Is your church doing the same?”
There is no doubt in my mind that the gospel is relevant. Therefore, the issue is not with the gospel’s message. God’s Word is true and it does not change. I believe that the disconnection is often a result of the delivery. As Christians, does our lifestyle align with the Word of God? Do we understand biblically what love looks like?…because that love is true, everlasting, unchanging, convicting yet forgiving, and no, it does not fail.
Biblical love is not self-seeking. It is sacrificial. It requires individuals to lay down their lives, rights, wants, needs, and desires for the sake of their neighbors and friends. Do we truly consider the needs of others above ourselves? Do we love our enemies and pray for those who despitefully use us? Are we passionate hypocrites or are we growing disciples? Here’s the thing, these young people value transparency and authenticity. If we are not living the life of the good book, then they don’t want to hear what we have to say and therefore, they will want no part of our God. The gospel must be God’s living Word ever present in our lives. We must submit to this truth and only then will the power of the Holy Spirit within us draw the lost to the sustaining hope of the gospel.
Many are asking the question, “Why young people are leaving the church?”
Alvin Reid, Professor of Evangelism and Student Ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forrest, NC recently spoke at our church conference about our dire need to reach young people. He challenged us to:
1. Share the unchanging truth differently
2. Focus less on behavior and more on the awe and wonder of God’s character and grace
3. Focus less on rules and more on relationship (Now that we know what concerns these young people and have identified their needs, what are we going to do about it?)
4. Focus less on institution and more on movement (Less institutional focus means less Christians bickering about nonessential issues that divide us and place more focus on the essential and primary issues that results in the building of God’s kingdom. We are to make disciples, baptize them, and then teach them to obey the things that Jesus commanded—that’s God’s movement!)
So my question today is, “If we have the answer, if we have the true hope, then why are so many young folks not gravitating to it?”
© Natasha S. Robinson 2011