Good Intentions
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59. Good Intentions

Successful Youth Evangelism

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), a French Abbot of the Cistercian Order, is thought to have coined the expression, "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions!" Monks and Nuns from the Cistercians sought a simpler lifestyle in 17th Century France. How easy it is with a few good intentions to start a piece of evangelism like a Christian Disco, but how hard it is to carry it through when the going gets tough. I find it a good rule to limit my plans for youth evangelism to what I feel can be uncomfortably attained! Uncomfortable, so that I'm stretched to swim but not swamped by my good intentions.

Self Pressured

I like to be self pressured by my Christian good intentions, as I am moving towards my objectives. God can sometimes prompt us to aim for the seemingly impossible on the other hand! But on the rare occasions God does, he invariably fills us with such an aggressive determination that we cannot resist. More often than not, however, he asks us to take smaller steps, stirring us with a still small whisper rather than a shattering bolt of flashing lightning. Hudson Taylor (1832-1905) who became a missionary to China for over 51 years, sailed out of Liverpool harbor at the age of only 21. He later reminded a group of young missionary recruits that the only motive that will enable you to remain true to your good intentions according to 2 Corinthians 5.14 is, "Christ's love constraining you will keep you faithful in every situation." This is the essence of the best of Christian intentions. Christian youth squashes are a type of informal meeting for a young people's group in a church or even in a friend's home. Young people love to get together just to chat and share thoughts and music. Christian youth squashes or youth house meetings can be another very useful instrument in the early stages of a developing youth group. Young people love to squeeze into a room to talk and listen to music. Use this as a basis and build a nucleus from it. All the time press home the need for spiritual conversion and growth. Let them simply make good and close friends of one another in a wholesome environment.

Disco or Coffee House

Once you have your group well-founded you can look at using the Christian Disco or Christian Coffee Bar or both to help establish the group in the Christian Faith. It is not a good idea however, no matter how much they may enjoy it, to continue the Disco or Coffee Bar for extended periods. Better an occasional treat than a laborious service to the local young people. We aim to build a friendship group with Christ at the center rather than provide an entertainment center for all. In short, use the Youth Squashes, Disco or Coffee Bar, don't let them use you! Establish youth evangelism goals to bring young people to faith in Jesus Christ and build up Christians. By keeping faithful to our good intentions others will be prompted to join this walk of faith. This youth evangelism goal is intended to bring individuals to personal faith in Jesus Christ and to establish a core of young Christians as a group in a church. This goal can be initiated in several ways.

Peripheral Organizations

One approach is to invite the leaders of established youth organizations on the fringe of the church to send representatives to form the beginnings of a youth group. Encourage groups like the Scouts, the Girl Guides, and the Marching Band or the Optimist Youth League who may use the church hall any movement for teens in your area to get involved. Enthuse them with your optimism for youth ministry and use your best influences in the community to get support. I know from personal experience that this works. When I was a skinny sixteen-year-old, I remember being invited by a flaxen-haired and delightfully eccentric young curate to come to a youth club he was starting. As apprehensive as I was, I went along with some of my scouting friends and to my surprise thoroughly enjoyed the experience. This turned out to be the beginning for me of many years of personal participation and leadership in youth work which led eventually to full-time Christian work.

Giving Leadership

Christian youth leaders are essential for a young peoples group in a dynamic church. Many young people complain about being forced into churchgoing. They are bored with church and their parents know it. This does not have to be, for I have found that where Biblical truth is taught and new life in the Savior is consistently upheld then these same youngsters find a whole hatful of excellent reasons why they want to be involved in the ongoing life of the church and become Christian youth leaders. If you happen to have a keen group of "the over-twenties" then these Christian youth leaders can be a great help in establishing a teenage club. The big problem will no doubt come when the Christian youth leaders have to pull back and allow the youngsters themselves to organize and find their leaders. The natural tendency is for "Joe," "who has been a teenager for the last twenty years and knows everything there is to know about youth work," to want to maintain control and keep others from growing into leadership responsibilities as youth leaders! As soon as a group begins to form its own identity, assign tasks to the natural leaders, organize committees to plan their programs and hand over most of the practical aspects to the teens themselves. Develop the youth leaders' role as guides. Gradually transfer the major portion of your interest from the practical to the spiritual.

Make Adequate Preparations

Christian leaders' will make adequate preparations for a young people's group in a developing Church. A second alternative for those churches with a strong children's work program is to use their top classes of twelve and thirteen-year-olds to form the beginnings of a youth group. How sad it is that so many churches bring their young people through their Sunday School system, accept them into church membership by confirmation or baptism and then allow them to drift away! Teenagers feel that they have "completed the course" so to speak and do not see the need to keep on coming. They rarely darken the door of the church after that except when they want to get married or have a child christened or taught in the Sunday School. Unfortunately, this cycle is assumed to be the norm and therefore becomes self-perpetuating. However, this can be solved with a little pre-planning, good intentions and effective strategy. Wise Christian leaders make adequate preparations for all ages. They prepare for their people from the cradle to the grave. Christian leaders ought to gently wean individuals from stage to stage. Many groups are cyclical and therefore they act accordingly. Young people's work in particular ebbs and flows like the tide and requires renewal every few years. Teenagers are very conscious of their age and only form friendships with a very narrow age group. Bear in mind that two years older or younger is just too much of a difference for most teenagers.

"Good Intentions"
by Ron Meacock © 1982-2021

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