During our recent Noah’s Ark Zoom session we experienced a takeover bid by one of the participants. He took the opportunity to activate the edit mode on the video we were watching and virtually painted what might have been a piece of high quality contemporary art all over our shared screens. Alternatively it might just have been a scribble, as he is four years old and had commandeered his dad’s phone in order to share in what we were doing. Dad was obviously letting him express his artistry freely, while the rest of us were laughing too much to sing the song about animals going two by two into the ark which we were supposed to be leading. As most of the leaders didn’t have a clue how to do what the little one achieved so easily, it proved to be a humbling experience, and it showed us all very clearly that being very young is a great advantage when it comes to technology!
This led later to some serious thinking on our part, as the Southern Counties Baptist Association had just advertised its next online gathering for ministers and leaders, and one of the subjects for discussion is the need to ‘pivot’ towards younger adults. We can all appreciate that it is essential to identify and train our younger people, most especially if there are very few of them and they are still on the periphery of church life without any opportunity to feel valued as an essential part of our life together. Our experience at our toddler group might have made us laugh, but it also challenged us that we must identify and value the skills of our younger people and start using them, if we are to remain current and grow.
We wonder if God is challenging us all at this time to consider carefully what responsibility we have in this area. Mentoring younger Christians is a sacred task, whether they are four or forty, most especially when they turn to us for help and guidance in spiritual matters. But it is also hugely important to allow them to thrive in more everyday tasks, as these are the things which will help all of us to make our way in today’s rapidly changing society. It’s not just four-year olds who have things to teach us about social media and technology and there is no doubt that the passion young people feel for social justice and equality puts our own in the shade. We have personally benefitted enormously from spending time at Soul Survivor every summer for the last few years, not just from the speakers and new worship songs that have blessed us, but through the conversations and prayer times we have had with the young people who were supposed to be being led by us.
Years ago, when we were both youth leaders at Slough Baptist Church, the words written by the apostle Paul for his protégé Timothy were written on the wall of the youth group room: ‘Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity’. Now more than ever we need to look at the example set for us by our younger members, graciously accept that they know more than we do in so many areas, and that God is calling us to encourage them and set them on the path which will bless them, and us, in the years ahead. We firmly believe that God is leading His whole Church in this direction, and we must follow where He leads.
With our love and prayers,
Matthew and Pauline