3 Subtle Ways the Church Talks About Young People

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Guest blog by Scott Wilcher

Jesus said, “From the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks," (Luke 6:45) One section of my book, The Orphaned Generation, asks aging churches to consider what their speech about young people reveals about their hearts regarding young people. It may give us insights into why they are not attracting and retaining young people well.

From what I hear, church folks talk about younger people in at least three ways:

1.   As Animals:

“You’d need a bullwhip/cattle prod to corral that pack of kids into Sunday School.”

“Those turkeys/rug rats/ankle biters etc. are out there monkeyin’/horsin’ around.”

The heart behind that kind of talk suggests young people are below us civilized folks.

2.   As Aliens

“Why do they do that to their hair?”

“Why do they do that to their skin?”

“Why would you pierce their body like that?”

“Why do they act like that?”

“They don’t know how to dress/ how to behave, or to take off a hat when they are inside.”

Notice the overflow of our hearts offers the same questions about young people that we ask about the people we see in National Geographic. They are not from our culture, perhaps not even from our planet, and that their culture is not as rational or wise as ours. THEY are not US.

3.   As Closed Spaces

Listen to parents talk about their kids:

“I’m trying to get in there and understand my son, but he won’t let me in. He wants me out of his life/out of his room/ out of his business/out of his way.”

“My daughter has this little circle/knot/ring/tribe of friends. They are very tight. They won’t let me in."

When our hearts perceive relationships with young people as in or out, we avoid them because we fear the feelings of rejection that may come if they remind us we are outsiders, out of style, out of touch.

In the mind of Christ, young people are not animals, aliens or closed spaces. Those things scare us. When we are scared of them, we can’t love them. Instead, we call/yell at them from a distance to come to Jesus, come to faith and come to church, but Jesus said, “Go. . .into all the earth,” not get them to come.

So, if young people are not animals, aliens or closed spaces in the mind of Christ, how does He see them? I would suggest that in His heart they are orphans. Those outside the faith are separated from their heavenly Father and in need of adoption. Those inside the faith often feel separated from the adult church and are separated by age-specific programming in our Churches. The heart of God is persistently turned toward the orphan. Do a search for “orphan,”
“fatherless” and “adoption” in Scripture. Then think of how those verses might apply to the young people around your church.

Young people will come to your church when they feel wanted and loved. They won’t feel it as long as we think of them as animals, aliens and closed spaces. But if we love them well as adopted sons and daughters, we won’t know where to put them all. This generation is starving for a place that feels like home and a group that feels like family. Your church can be that place.

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