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Hopeful outlook for youth advocated by evangelism prof

HOUSTON (BP)–The United States will have more teenagers in 2006 than any time in its history –- a fact that Alvin Reid sees as presenting new challenges for today’s youth pastors and parents.

Reid, professor of evangelism at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, in addressing a “Raising the Bar” conference at Houston’s First Baptist Church, said youth pastors and parents should have higher expectations of today’s youth.

“The Bible is amazingly positive toward youth. Why can’t the church be?” asked Reid, author of several books, including most recently “Raising the Bar: Ministry to Youth in the New Millennium.”

Citing Isaac, Joshua, Samuel, Esther, David, Josiah, Daniel, Jeremiah, Timothy and Mary as examples, Reid said youth today need to know that God can use them mightily for His purposes.

Jesus was just 12 when He said, “Do you not know that I am to be about my Father’s business?” Reid also noted.

Reid said he disagrees with today’s books on youth over perpetuating the idea that teens must go through some sort of rebellion stage.

“The most underreported aspect of great revivals in modern history is the role of young people,” the North Carolina professor said at the Texas church in early April. “Youth today are not irreligious. They seek genuine spirituality.”

Listing various ways youth pastors and parents can reach teenagers effectively for Christ, Reid said they first must teach God’s Word.

Churches should not pick the funniest or goofiest people in the congregation to teach youth, he said, but the best teachers of the Bible.

Reid quoted one teenager as saying, “We know how to be teenagers; we want to know how to be adults.”

Parents should take spiritual leadership in their children’s lives, Reid continued.

“Today we live in a culture where our youth pastors are the main spiritual guides in our teenagers’ lives, not the parents. I am my son’s youth pastor. Every parent should take that role.”

Churches also should teach students how to share their faith, Reid said, citing several stories of how students who had done door-to-door witnessing with him returned later to thank him because they were able to lead others to Christ based on what they had learned.

“Young people today are activists. They want to be a part of something,” Reid said.

He told a story of one group who attended an evangelism conference during which some of them raised their hands at the end and said, “When are we going to do this?”

If youth pastors don’t feel competent in sharing their faith, Reid said they should be honest about it and begin to learn the process alongside the teenagers.

And churches should teach youth how to worship, Reid said. Recounting that he picked up a bass guitar when he was 40, he said style and talent are not the key, although some musical ability is important.

“Nashville, Tenn., is full of restaurants with waiters and waitresses who are better musicians than you have in your church. Musical ability is not the point. There is a certain level of musical ability, but I want people who just want to know God.”

As a bass player in a praise and worship band called “One Way Up,” Reid said he loves to travel with the band and open God’s Word and share Scripture with youth, teaching them to know and love God more.

Churches should find ways to involve teens more in their services, he said, so that they take ownership and become motivated to worship early in their lives, he said.

Finally, Reid said churches should teach young people to pray.

“Many Christian families do not pray together,” he said, adding, “We have no business talking about prayer in schools when we don’t pray at home.”

The rebirth of prayer among today’s youth, he reiterated, needs to start with their parents.

Saying he is hopeful about changing the outlook for today’s youth and their future, Reid said, “Three things every young person needs are a model to follow, an encourager to believe in them and permission to live for Jesus.”
Tracy Barrett is a correspondent with the Southern Baptist Texan, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

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