Dennis Luce, Youth Pastor at Woodland Hills, shared his passion for reaching youth with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He shared how today’s youth culture is vastly different from earlier generations.
Dennis Luce, Youth Pastor at Woodland Hills, shared his passion for reaching youth with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
He shared how today’s youth culture is vastly different from earlier generations. First, they are more technologically savvy. Second, they face a culture of violent behavior and drug use regardless of where they live or what school they attend. Third, a youth pastor can no longer assume that the youth attending church are aware of such familiar Bible stories as Noah and the Flood, and David and Goliath. Finally, our society’s fast and frantic pace has left many families disconnected. The result is that many youth feel isolated and neglected. In addition to these generational differences, one thing that has unfortunately stayed the same is that today’s youth live in a “racialized” society. This means that despite the growing multicultural flavor of the United States, race continues to play a defining role in the structure of society (where people live, what jobs people have, etc.).
Though many of these differences are negative, there are positives about today’s youth culture. First, they have a heightened sense of spirituality. Openness exists for hearing about Jesus Christ. Though the danger in this trait is that many youth lack discernment about what type of spirituality to explore, nevertheless, it still provides wonderful opportunities for sharing. Second, they are passionate people with a strong hope. They lack apathy. Finally, this hope breeds confidence in their ability to assess the brokenness within our culture and to fix it.
Dennis asked, “If this is the world of today’s youth, how do we effectively reach them? Studies have shown that 85% of people who make a decision to follow Jesus do so before the age of 18. If a local church wishes to participate in making more disciples of Jesus Christ, it seems obvious that they should focus on reaching youth. However, the sad reality is that many churches are failing in this work. Positional authority no longer will influence a young person to follow Jesus. Neither will lecturing to them about their need “to shape up.” Many people believe that today’s youth are seeking life in the wrong way. In some cases, this might be true; however, Dennis encouraged us to remember the story of Jesus’ healing of Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52). Bartimaeus was a blind beggar who when he heard that Jesus was walking by cried out for Jesus to have mercy upon him. Those around Bartimaeus told him that he was asking in the “wrong way;” he needed to be much quieter in his request. Likewise, we need to be aware of our expectations for how youth “should” act. Before today’s youth will listen to what we have to say, they need to know first whether we care. If they believe that we care, they will be more open to listening to what we think.
Dennis encouraged us to see youth as we would any other mission field. For example, when missionaries go to the country where they will serve, typically they learn the language, understand the cultural differences that exist, and translate respectfully and understandably the Christian faith into the host culture. We must do the same with today’s youth.
At Woodland Hills, the desire is to bring youth to maturity in Christ so that they will share Christ with others. This goal acknowledges the fact that youth are the most effective missionaries to youth. The young people of Woodland Hills are growing in Christ through relationships nurtured in small groups, worship and teaching times, and outreach events. In addition, the proposed Youth Center will enable Woodland Hills to reach effectively more youth with the saving message of Jesus.
Although youth are most effective in reaching other youth, Dennis reminded the audience that everyone has a part to play. He encouraged us to get to know today’s youth instead of judging them. We need to see them as people with incredible potential for furthering the kingdom of God.
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