Blog - Supporting Believers
Church-from-Scratch: Equipping Young People (Part 10)Wednesday, January 09, 2013
"If you could create it from scratch,” a reader wrote, "what would a church look like that fully embodied a proper theology of work and really empowered its members to be ministers in the workplace?” This is the tenth blog in a series responding to this question.
Whether new or established, a church should prepare its young people to live as Christ-followers in the world of work. At or near the same ages Christian young people leave home, many of them head off into a war zone. Before they enter harm’s way, our military works hard to prepare them. A U.S. Army website, says: "Basic Combat Training (BCT) is a training course that transforms civilians into Soldiers. Over the course of ten weeks these recruits learn about the Seven Core Army Values, how to work together as a team and what it takes to succeed as a Soldier in the U.S. Army.”
The Army spends time and money to make recruits battle-ready. Contrast this with what churches have typically done to make young people workplace-ready, prepared to enter the spiritual warfare they’ll encounter there. In a survey of 60 Christians from the work world I conducted several months ago, I asked, "Before you went into the work world, did you receive any biblical instruction on choosing a job?” More than 75 percent of the respondents answered "none.”
How might a church intentionally go about equipping its children, youth, and young adults to enter the work world to represent Christ and his Kingdom there? It should adopt a multi-faceted approach. First, by incorporating many of the practices recommended in this series of blogs, the church could be training young people in its normal weekly meetings. From early ages, the children would be absorbing the theology of work right along with the gospel and theologies of sanctification, mission, finances, and so on.
Second, by making certain parents receive a thorough grounding in the theology of work, the church should urge upon them the need to teach their children what God has revealed about our daily work. Biblically, the major responsibility for bringing up children in the "discipline and instruction of the Lord” belongs to parents (for example, see Deut. 6:6-8; Ps. 78:1-7; Eph. 6:4). Such home-based instruction, by word and by example, surely ought to include what God’s Word says about work.
Third, the church should make it a priority to include material in its Sunday school and youth group that will prepare children and young people to live for Christ in the work world. The curricula could include a great variety of subject matter. It could provide instruction from the lives of biblical characters who served God in the work world. For example, how did Joseph, Nehemiah, and Daniel all integrate their faith with their everyday work?
The curricula could help young people to discover how God has "wired” them with gifts, abilities, interests, and motivations that God gave not only for use in "full-time Christian service” but also for use in so-called "secular” work. In Finding a Job You Can Love, Ralph T. Mattson and Arthur F. Miller, Jr., ask: "How would Christian education be viewed if it actually provided young people with an understanding of their specific gifts and equipped them accordingly” (p. 42)?
According to David Kinnaman of the Barna Group, 60 percent of young people in our churches will leave the church for good or for a very long time beginning at age 15. No doubt many factors contribute to this exodus. But more than 70 years ago, Dorothy Sayers—the well-known British writer—probably named at least one of them. In "Why Work?” she asked: "How can anyone remain interested in a religion which seems to have no concern with nine-tenths of his life?”
How indeed, unless our churches vitally connect the Christian faith with the work world? Young people will see the relevance of the church that helps them link their faith to the activity that will claim a lion’s share of their lifetime.