Make the Message Clear
There’s smoke coming out of their upstairs window. But you’re new in the neighborhood and you don’t want to disturb your neighbor. If you get an opportunity to mention the puffs of smoke you will, but that’s not where you want to start the conversation. You gently knock on the door:
“Good morning – it’s a great day! I was admiring your dandelion-free lawn. It looks awesome. You must have a green-thumb. I love the way you have those plants arranged. It looks like something out of the Chelsea Garden Grass and Weed magazine. By the way, let me ask you dear neighbor, if a jogger was in the neighborhood and she smelled a few whiffs of smoke what should she do: a) put on a mask; b) ignore it or c) find the source? And to take it further, once the source was identified, how should she respond: a) hope the wind changes direction; b) alert the homeowner; or c) pray for heavy rain?”
When we are working with community youth let’s be crystal clear on the issues. We have their ear for such a short period of time. Don’t beat around the bush. Don’t give them some wimpy material from a Christian book store shelf that tells them how to control their anger or how to be kind to their peers and be much nicer on the school bus. If you want to instill those values as a secondary objective that’s fine – but always, your primary objective should be – to make them ‘wise unto salvation.’ Too many of the prepackaged so-called ‘outreach’ programs for youth are so wishy-washy the basics of the Gospel can hardly be detected.
Getting children to memorize the Beatitudes or 1 Corinthians 13 on love when they haven’t yet memorized the classic Gospel verses of the Bible is borderline irresponsible! If you happen to think there’s nothing wrong with that approach, you might also see nothing wrong with the jogger’s approach above.
It’s not Christian-living material children from the community need – they need the truths related to the Gospel.
Weave into all your activities the basic elements of the Gospel. Analyze the content of the songs you teach them. Are they mostly for those who are already saved? Could they get saved through these lyrics 10 years from now, when they are coming home from a nightclub? Sure, there has to be the ‘fast and fun’ component but choose songs that blend Gospel doctrine with youthful lyrics, action and tempo.
When you’re asking questions and doing quizzes – seize every opportunity to nail down something about their need and God’s amazing remedy. Purposefully design every minute of your 60-minute program. In light of eternity, every minute counts.
Of course, the other sad extreme is someone who harps lopsidedly on warnings, judgment and hell – feeling their mission isn’t complete if they don’t get the word ‘Hell’ in each time they participate. Remember – these are children from the community. Be wise. Be sensitive.
If you’re teaching the lesson, make sure you can identify (in your preparation) a couple of critical Gospel truths you want to bring out of your story. Write those critical points down and put them in your Bible. Read them just before you speak so the kids will get more than just the mere ‘facts’ of your story.
Always ask yourself: could the child get saved through the songs we sing tonight? If Amanda’s bike collides with a truck – and I’m the last one to have told her a story from the Bible – did I make it clear? The verse I got the class to memorize the last time she attended – what part of the Gospel truth did it cover?
As you gear up for an exciting autumn season of children’s work – remember you are engaged in G-O-S-P-E-L work.
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