In 1997 I began working in the ministry with teens. I poured my heart, my time, my energy, my everything into their lives. As a result, we saw a youth department go from about 12 to nearly 50 each week. We went had two activities every month as we had a S.N.A.C.K. (Sunday Night After Church Knock-out) and a Friday night activity of something like a Blue Gnu or Super Mall Sweep. We went to our Teen Camp, our Talent Contests, and weekly we had around 30 teens going soul winning on Tuesday nights. I was a 'success' as a youth pastor....so I thought. I had the largest Sunday School class in the church, the soul winning crowd was 90% teens, the bus ministry rested on their shoulders, there was life, energy, and excitement each week in the teen class. Other youth pastors were calling me and asking what the secret was. I had arrived....no where.
I estimate in my eight years of being a youth leader that nearly thousands of teens went through our class. There are right now four serving in the ministry and an additional 8-10 still in a IFB church. Success huh? Where are the other 1,982 or so? You can find many on facebook or myspace with their beers, blasphemy, and babies; but not in church Sunday. At first I would get angry with them, considering their actions an act of betrayal against me. I was wrong. Not just for that feeling, but I had been wrong.
With great intentions, great enthusiasm, and great effort, I won the heart of many of those teens. I, as many youth pastors, kept them busy at church and out of trouble, entertained them with activities, contests and jokes, and along the way taught some Bible. I met with parents-when their child was naughty. I did the IFB thing-had fun with them and ignored the Biblical Parental Roles that were missing.
By the time I became the pastor, the Lord had opened my eyes to a problem. Despite our efforts and temporary successes, we were losing them. We were losing the bus teens, the church teens, the preacher boys, the class presidents, the snotty nosed runt and the sharp verse memorizers. We were losing nearly all of them.
In my ministry, I have stopped and re-evaluated everything. I believe we have become so wrapped in our man made traditions, that we do not realize how far we have strayed from God's Word.
It is quite evident that many others are realizing this same problem. The Southern Baptist Church has begun a study on the same topic, as have First Baptist Hammond, Answers in Genesis, and many more. I, nor Pastor Carr, would ever claim to know it all or have the upper hand on anyone. We just are burdened. Hammond will no doubt preach its answers with a loud voice, Ken Ham will teach the answer is getting back to Genesis, Southern Baptist will select a committee to discuss it for 22 years, and so on and so on. Here is what I have learned....
It is our job Dad and Mom. Whether you are on the front lines of battle or the back pew of a dead church, we still can rear our children to serve the Lord. The promises are there in Scripture. It is time to get back to Scripture and leave the man made traditions of dating, letting Sunday School be in charge of spiritually maturing our children, letting an academy be in charge of educating our children, letting a youth pastor get their heart and keep them in church. It is time to grow up dads. Time to put up the PlayStation 3 each night and talk to your son. It's time for moms to quit going to two Pampered Chef parties, ladies fellowship at church, shopping with your friends, and instead stay home and fix dinner and teach your daughters to love their husbands and keep their homes. It's time to set aside our hobbies and sports and to instead get and keep our child's heart. It is time to stop eating dinner in three different rooms with three different T.V.s on and instead to sit around a table and fellowship together in unity. It is time that children hear their daddy pray at home, see their mommys keep the home, and join with parents in song at home. It is time we quit looking for loopholes in Scripture as to why our children may rebel, and start taking responsibility that we can rear them in the ways of the Lord and should they not-it is the parent's fault. It is time we consistently have family devotions, father is the head of the home, children desire to spend time with mom and dad, T.V.s are shut off, computers are shut down, and hearts are opened and shared. It is time for teens to realize they don't have to date fifty to find the one. It is time for the family to be more than a name. It is time that Authority be seen as God's Word. It is time!
We can't afford to sit back and think that our child will be the exception. I challenge every parent to stop, fall on our knees, and thank the Lord for our children, repent for not taking the full responsibility of them, and determine to quit our selfish ways. Determine to not be satisfied with our children making money and having a house. Determine to not expect rebellion as part of life. Determine to quit letting the world entertain and amuse us. Determine that a poll like the one to the right would not reflect failure, but success. Determine to be willing to sacrifice everything to get our child's heart, to keep our child's heart, and one day to give our child's heart to the one person God has for them as spouse.
It is time right now. May God give us wisdom and courage for the days ahead.