NASHVILLE (BP) -- Why don't you join me as a youth worker who, admittedly, is out of his element?
Pray about it. Seriously pray about it.
You might even become a good youth worker. Or one who's pretty decent at it.
I've worked in our church's youth ministry for about five years. I generally take attendance, make a bit of small talk with the middle school boys, try to be attentive as the lesson is taught and, on occasion, I pray at the end of the session.
I've also taught the lesson about a half-dozen times and have improved a bit.
But I like the praying role. The guys are quiet and I can pour out a bit of my heart for them.
Everybody's been patient and kind with me. And they've offered lots of encouragement.
Even though I'm not a great youth worker, at least I am one. Previously, I was an "attendee" on Wednesday nights. I went to a men's Bible study for a time followed by a study on biblical stewardship.
Then came the conversation that went kind of like this:
God: How long are you going to keep going to these studies?
Me: I don't really know.
God: How about, instead, actually doing something?
Me: You mean get involved in our youth ministry?
God: That's right.
So I volunteered. First I sat in with a truly good youth worker, then another. It was awkward. What do I know about boys? Our daughter, what a pleasure; these boys, what a challenge.
I've sought to be an example to the boys and have had a chance to ask a few of them about whether they're connected to God.
Over time, something marvelous has happened: I've begun to see middle school boys as genuine human beings. I can talk with them, at least to an extent I never thought possible. I'm not afraid of them. I'm praying for them at a pivotal juncture when their lives are wide open.
And I'm seeing lots of other ways to be mindful and prayerful for young people.
I know the importance of praying for:
-- Today's students -- those in middle school and high school as well as those venturing off to college, asking God to keep their hearts tender toward Him in this era of cultural lostness, asking God to bring a flow of witnesses into their lives who will nuture them as agents of God's redemptive mission on earth.
-- Today's educators -- those who are in public and private schools and those who engage in homeschooling, asking God to give them divine wisdom and a mighty dose of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
-- Our church youth ministry leaders -- those volunteers and, in larger churches, those staff members who know the critical importance of nurturing the next generation of citizens who, amid the unfolding moral chaos and corruption, will shine the light of God's winsome Gospel across North America and throughout the world.
Amid the excitement of a new church year, have you considered serving as a volunteer? Courageously pray about it. And even if the Lord doesn't lead you to trek into your church's youth group, you can still pray. Our students, our educators, our youth ministry need your prayers. After all, God is the one who hears our prayers as we seek His hope for our nation and our world.
Art Toalston (@arttoalston on Twitter) is editor of Baptist Press and author of two ebooks on prayer, When I Meditate and Meditation & Morality (http://bit.ly/arttoalston-2books).
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