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FIRST-PERSON: Reaching the next generation

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–I am often asked, “What will it take to reach this next generation?” Oh how I would love to answer this question with a simple response that would please everyone. I want nothing more than to be able to point to one resource, one program, one ministry or even one denomination. That would make it easy.

However, in the real world of reaching the next generation, nothing is easy. The complexity of life of students today runs circles around that of their parents. The confusion and hurt of today’s students is one that must push the church, not just youth leaders, to invest deeply in their generation. Here are a few suggestions I believe that we, as a body of Christ, must move toward:

— Rely on the power of God. Please don’t take this for granted or quickly move past the critical necessity of relying on God. For far too long, we have ministered and built programs that leave little room for the power of God. Unless we see God move freely in our churches, we will not see the next generation come to Christ.

— Make disciples. If we are not making disciples of Jesus Christ who have an understanding of God’s Word, then we are not building a foundation that will reach the next generation. Jesus’ command was not to have big events but to make disciples. Making disciples must be the priority in all that we do.

— Parenting. The church has essentially abdicated the disciple-making role of parents. We have created programs from birth to college that rob parents of the responsibility and joy of being the spiritual leaders in their kids’ lives. In doing so, we have not equipped parents with the needed resources to disciple their kids. New ministries like the Turning Hearts Tour (www.turningheartstour.com) from LifeWay Christian Resources are moving us in the right direction. Let’s covenant to bring parents back into the lives of their kids.

— Pastoral support. The days of the “youth director” are over. We can no longer afford to hire babysitters for our students. In order for this to happen, our senior pastors must begin by hiring and empowering God-called leaders who effectively invest in this generation. We also must move beyond the idea that our students are the church of tomorrow. They are the church of today as much as anyone else. The next generation must be on the mind and lips of every pastor today.

— Send missionaries. Possibly the greatest mission field in North America is found on the school campuses. If our churches would equip, empower and send students to school as missionaries, I believe students would understand what an “on mission” lifestyle looks like. The greatest mission field in North America needs some of the greatest missionaries on it. Let’s send them!

I realize this list is not exhaustive. It’s not meant to be a list that defines evangelism to students or youth ministry. It is simply a few core essentials that I believe we must evaluate and implement today in light of reaching the next generation.

So, what will it take to reach the next generation? What will it take to reach the students in your neighborhood and your community? Those questions are not answered by everyone the same way. There are no simple solutions or quick wins.

We are in a battle for the heart and soul of this generation. The enemy wants nothing more than to distract us so that we distance ourselves from doing what it takes to reach them. May we fully rely on the power of God to make disciples, equip parents and send students into the greatest mission field in North America.
Chad Childress is director of student evangelism for the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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  • Chad Childress