As the new school year begins next month, we at FBC Mesquite are excited about a new prayer partner program that we are starting. In this program, one of our youth will be paired up with an adult in the church of the same gender as a prayer partner. These prayer partners will exchange prayer requests with
one another at least a couple of times a month and then commit to praying for one another each day for the next year.
The most obvious benefit to this program will be that people are prayed for more intentionally by a fellow church member and that they will have the opportunity to do the same for their partner. If nothing else, more intentional prayer is never a bad thing for God's people.
While we hope to improve the prayer lives of those involved in this program, the primary motivation behind starting this particular program is a desire to see a greater inter-generational unity in our church. Dr. Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has said that one of the scandals of modern evangelicalism is that the first thing we do when we come to church is we send everybody to their rooms based on age. The prevalent use of age based ministries has been the norm in our churches for so long that its easy to assume this is the best way to disciple the next generation.
Is a youth ministry, however, segregated from the rest of the church, a ministry serving as its own mini-church rather than a body part of the actual church, really the best way to prepare our young people to be lifelong followers of Christ? The evidence around us and the biblical record both emphatically say no.
No Youth Ministry In The New Testament
The truth is the pages of the New Testament are silent about age based ministries that are so common in our modern churches. In my student ministry class in seminary we were given an assignment to make a biblical case for the existence of student ministry. It was a much more difficult task than one might expect. As a youth pastor I must acknowledge that there is no youth ministry in the New Testament. Now I do not believe that means we should scrap children's, youth, young adult and senior adult ministries, but we should reexamine how they fit into the life of the overall church. I do not believe there is anything in Scripture that forbids age based ministries, and in many cases I think they are quite helpful, but nonetheless we should strive to create a unity of one body that includes believers of all ages as we see in the New Testament.
Youth Leaving The Church
It is no secret that way too many young people are leaving the church after graduating high school. Should we really be surprised by this though? For many young people when they graduate out of the youth group it feels like they are graduating out of the only "church" they have ever known. The sad reality is that it is possible for a kid to spend 18 years in the same church and have no meaningful relationships with any adults in that church other than family members and youth and children's workers. They may know the name of the senior adult who sits behind them every Sunday, but most likely they have never had a meaningful conversation with her. This lack of relationship between brothers and sisters in Christ hurts both the senior adult and the teenager. The senior adult misses out on enjoying the youthful ambition and excitement of the teenager and the teenager misses out on the wisdom the senior adult has gained from decades of walking with Christ.
Even among many young people who continue to confess Christ there is still a lack of desire to be a part of a local body of Christ. It is a shame that so many 20 somethings, who genuinely love Jesus, don't love His bride. Again this is not surprising considering an effort was never made to make them feel like they were already a part of His bride. I have often heard people refer to children and youth as the future of the church. I understand what they mean, and have said it myself, but I think it can be harmful to think of young people only as the future of the church. The reality is that they are the church. Present tense. Now. Not future tense.
It is our belief that this prayer partner program will be a small first step in creating a greater unity across the generations in our church. We believe it is not possible to pray for one person every day for a year and not develop a special bond with that person. Each year new prayer partners will be assigned which means a youth, when they graduate high school, will have developed 6 meaningful relationships with adults in the church that they wouldn’t have had normally.
If you are interested in being a part of this program we will have a meeting for the adults on Sunday, July 22nd following the morning worship. Two weeks later on August 5th we will have a meeting for the teenagers and their families who are interested in this program.