The biblical mandate to instruct children is important to Jesus and thus, should be vital to us. Youth ministry is an important way to change a culture. Be it children, high school or university ministries, discipling the young can be extremely valuable to long-term missions work.
Often times when entering into a new community a missionary can discover the adults are skeptical and slow to respond, but the children are more eager to interact. The innocence and curiosity of youth frequently causes kids to gravitate toward the new and interesting. Missionaries can make a large and swift impact on a community by first reaching out to children.
The Lord wants us to instruct the children (Deut 6:7, Prov 1:8-9, 22:6, Ps 78:1-7). Educating children in the ways of the Lord, for some kids, brings them their first exposure to the saving grace of Christ, and for others, affirms previous instruction from the home or church. Children are a gift from God and a blessing to us (Ps 127:3-5). The importance of instructing youth is clear in Scripture.
Ministering to children helps to counter the world’s influence they are experiencing through sin, poverty and abuse. Discipling the youth of a culture will teach them how to love and forgive others in their lives. Kids in youth ministry are provided with valuable tools they need to glorify God in their own walk with the Lord.
The faith of children is an example for all adults (Mat 18:2-6, 18:10, 1Pet 2:2-3). Reaching kids with the gospel turns them into evangelists as they return home and share biblical truths with members of their family. John Piper said, “When we humble ourselves like little children and put on no airs of self-sufficiency, but run happily into the joy of our Father’s embrace, the glory of His grace is magnified and the longing of our soul is satisfied.”
Reaching the youth of a culture helps missionaries to reach the entire family. Some parents are drawn back to the church by the faith of their kids. Children are a gateway to unchurched family members and provide a safe excuse to enter homes and talk about faith. Children are fearless and unimpeded evangelists. There can be fewer sounds sweeter than to hear the voice of a child say, “Here I am Lord, send me.” Young people are not encumbered by the embarrassment and self-doubt that prevents many adults from sharing their faith.
The most impactful way to radically change a community is to alter a generation of its children. Reaching the youth of a community is changing the future leaders. Children have access to places that may be closed to most missionaries. Public schools, gangs and sports teams are all influenced by a kid who has a heart turned toward Christ. Andrew Murray said, “Nature teaches us that every believer should be a soul-winner. It is an essential part of the new nature. We see it in every child who loves to tell of his happiness and to bring others to share his joys.”
If the next generations leaders are disciples of Christ an entire community can experience the grace and mercy of Jesus. The youth who are touched by the Lord today will be teachers, parents and police officers tomorrow. One missionary who disciples young individuals and small groups of youth can alter the DNA of a culture over time.
In churches all over the world there is a noticeable absence of young men and fathers. Too many children do not see biblical examples of men. Reaching the youth today will provide more qualified preachers and leaders in the years to come. Charles Spurgeon said, “You may speak but a word to a child, and in that child there may be slumbering a noble heart which shall stir the Christian Church in years to come.” Educating the youth creates a more biblically sound and engaged congregation in the future.
It is more impactful if the youth of a community are educated by national Christian leaders, preferably by a nationally run church. Ideally, a missionary will facilitate youth ministry and provide resources to national Christians so they can impact their own culture. A national run youth ministry that is pointing kids into local churches is the healthiest long-term solution for people group.
Christ calls us to reach the youth of a culture. Our Father instructs us to teach and value our youth. A missionary who is actively discipling the children in a community is planting seeds that will pay dividends for the spiritual health of future generations. Imagine, ten-years from now, an army of youth growing up to be theologically sound and Christ loving parents, teachers and pastors. Christ is glorified today and in the days to come through youth ministry.
Working with youth can be messy and hard. Kids are honest and fickle. Young people ask questions and demand sound answers. A Christ-centered youth ministry on the mission field can be one of the most productive discipling ministries to provide long-term change in a culture.