What our kids need to hear

Published 6:23 pm Friday, March 29, 2019

Nathan Decker

Lead us not into temptation. Just tell us where it is; we’ll find it.”

– Sam Levenson

I watched them weep and smile at the same time. Tears on their cheeks, smiles on their lips, and joy in their hearts — they worshipped God. Youth sang. Teenagers shared with one another and adults what was going on in their lives. A time for God to wrap his arms around us all and let us know we were loved, confirmation.

Every faith group, tribe, and denomination has a rite of passage from child to young adult in our spiritual journey. High Street UMC does this through confirmation. For the past few years we’ve done this on a retreat at Lake Junaluska. This year was particularly impacting. I don’t think it was the 6-hour car ride or the ‘chats’ with Pastor Nathan about grace, baptism, communion and church. I don’t think it was the rock music we sang to praise God. And even though the preacher shared powerfully from God’s Word, that wasn’t the most important thing that happened while we were there.

On Saturday night, after a long day of classes, play, and worship, I handed out little bags and notes to the kids. You see, our church had taken time to pray for each of these youth. Several people had written little notes of encouragement. A single note makes us go “aww… .” But this was overwhelming love of God expressed through the church. It got really quiet as the kids opened and absorbed the hugs and expressions of love written in word. One of the boys sat for a long time with teary eyes. One of the girls came up to me afterward and was unusually serious. “I don’t even know these people, and they really love me.”

When I was a young adult, most churches and camps seemed to use a boxing approach to sharing salvation. In a “one, two punch” method, they would first scare the hell out of us and then follow it up with an offer of salvation. It was as if they would starve us of nourishment just so they could feed us in the end. They would emphasize how sinful we were. They would emotionally and spiritually abuse us with messages that brought on insecurity and doubt about our well-being. Then they would swoop in with Jesus and promise that everything would be okay if we would just give our lives to him.

I do not believe our kids need to hear about how messed up their lives are. The world does a great job of being judge, jury and executioner. Youth today face broken homes, drug abuse, neglect, judgment, gossip, gangs, bullies online and in person, and face a system that has institutionalized barely getting by. What our kids need to hear today is what the youth of High Street heard all weekend long. Over and over they were reminded “You are loved.”

Most people know what hell is like because if we haven’t gone through it, we’re already living it. People don’t need reminded of the hurt they’ve caused or the hurt others are causing them. Folks need to hear the reassurance that God cares, they matter, and salvation is not just escaping judgment; salvation is truly living in God’s love. Share love today in your words and deeds. It’s what our kids need to hear. It’s what you need to hear. After all, it’s what Jesus would do.

Go home to your own people, and tell them what the Lord has done for you and how he has shown you mercy.”

– Jesus speaking to the man out of whom he drove demons in Mark 5:19