With such an army of workers as our youth, rightly trained, might furnish, how soon the message of a crucified, risen, and soon-coming Savior might be carried to the whole world! (Education, p. 271).
It’s probably Ellen White’s best-known statement about young people–and an unforgettable image for anyone who works with youth. An army of dedicated Christian young people, deployed around the world to bring the message of Jesus’ soon return to everyone. It’s the vision that shapes our work as Adventist youth leaders.
We have never fully realized the potential of this army of youth. At various times in our history, at different places in the Adventist world, we’ve come close. We’ve tapped into that potential army with tremendous results. But in too many places, too much of the time, the .army of youth. remains an unrealized dream.
As youth leaders, we spend effort and energy trying to entertain our youth so they won’t slip away from the church. We argue among ourselves about how to solve the .problem. of our youth. We worry about their dress, their music, their deportment, their games and movies and dates. It’s time we actually put our effort towards mobilizing God’s army!
Our twofold focus as Adventist youth leaders must always be: Salvationand Service. We work to introduce our young people to Jesus Christ so that they will choose a saving relationship with Him for themselves. The second part of this work, equally important, is to then train them to bring His message of love and hope to others.
This handbook will focus on four keys to achieving the twin goals of Salvation and Service:
Discipleship: is the process of learning to follow. Ultimately, the leader we want our youth to follow is, of course, Jesus. As leaders, we ourselves need to be Christ’s disciples. Then we need to encourage young people to become our disciples, in order to teach them to follow Jesus. Paul said: Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1, NIV).
This is akin to the concept of mentoring that is so popular in the business world, but it goes much farther. Jesus’ commission was to .go and make disciples of all nations. The process of making a disciple involves sharing the values, lifestyle, and priorities that we ourselves have learned from Jesus. Through this process, we lead young people into their own saving relationship with Jesus, and we model a life of service which they can take to the world.
Go and make disciples of all nations. (Matthew 28:19).
Leadership: is what we as youth leaders, pastors, Sabbath school leaders and teachers need to show.
It’s also what we need to develop in our young people. Our task is to become effective leaders ourselves, and to train our youth to become leaders–leaders in their peer group and their community, so that they can lead others to Jesus.
Missions: Following Jesus’ example means doing the kind of loving service for others that He did.
We can give our young people countless opportunities to serve others both in their own communities and around the world. Whether it’s mowing the grass for a senior citizen, serving lunch at a soup kitchen, or building an orphanage in another country, mission and service projects will draw our young people closer to Jesus than any other activity we can plan for them.
Evangelism: Reaching the world with His message is the ultimate goal of our Adventist youth ministry.
With our focus clearly on Salvation and Service, we need to provide evangelistic opportunities for our own young people to make a decision for Jesus, and then involve them in evangelism–both traditional and non-traditional–that will give them the opportunity to share His message with others.
There should be an earnest desire in the heart of every youth who has purposed to be a disciple of Jesus Christ to reach the highest Christian standard, to be a worker with Christ. (Ellen G. White, God’s Amazing Grace, p. 284).
In a moment we’ll look at practical ways to achieve these four goals of leadership, discipleship, mission/service, and evangelism. First, though, let’s see what effect a focus on Salvation and Service for youth will have on the local church, on you as the youth leader, and on the youth themselves.