How to impact tomorrow’s disciples today
Last week, we celebrated my daughter’s 11th birthday. Of course, I am dealing with all those parental emotions of grief over how quickly time flies by, as well as pride watching her grow into this young lady who is so full of life. At her family party, I found myself overcome by gratitude by the love our kids experience. It’s a love that now spans generations! Each person at the table loved me when I was around the same age.
You might be thinking that obviously these people loved me when I was around the same age as my kids because they are family! But that’s really the beauty of it, isn’t it? Gathered around our candlelit, lemon cream pie, singing to my sweet girl were a few family members, a few friends who have become family members, and a few friends who are just like family.
Alongside my parents were my sister-in-law and brother-in-law. I first met them when Jeremy was the middle school youth director at Chapel Hill. He and Kristalyn invited me to be a student leader. Kristalyn led Bible Studies and Campaigner Groups that I was in. When I went off to college, they sent me notes of encouragement and called to check in on me. And when I fell in love with Kristalyn’s brother, Joey, they performed our wedding ceremony. Now we’re family.
Next to them was Wannie. Wannie was in a prayer group with my mom that met every Wednesday night at Chapel Hill. This group of ladies prayed for a lot of things, including their kids. When my mom died, this group kept praying for me. Now each Friday, Wannie calls me to check in on my girls and asks how she and Roger can pray for our family, signing off with her signature line, “Feel my hug.” As I looked around at this group of people who love me and were celebrating my daughter on her birthday, I was floored by how grateful I am for my community.
In the last few weeks, you’ve heard a lot about how we want to be a church that prepares and mobilizes the next generation to live a life on mission for Christ (it’s part of our five-year vision; you can learn more about that here). I’ve been thinking about what that means for me, not as a pastor, but as a person who worships at Chapel Hill. I realized that my inclination is to outsource the whole operation. Isn’t that the role of the Family and Student Ministries department? But as I reflected this last week, I released that each of the people around the table that night were people who prepared and mobilized me to live for Jesus. Yes, some of them were involved in Student Ministries, but I never felt like they were caring for me because it was their job. In fact, I suspect they cared for me because they genuinely care for me. I suspect they cared for me enough to want me to know Jesus like they know him.
All of this caused me to feel a little squeeze of conviction and a big dose of encouragement. I found myself asking myself some questions: how am I preparing and mobilizing the next generation? Who are the young people that I am investing in outside of my kids? Am I texting those students I know who are launched to college, to check in and see how they are doing? Am I showing up at soccer games and cheering them on? Or asking how the game went? Am I calling a parent of kids younger than mine to ask how I can pray for them? Am I the type of person who is invited to the family birthday party for someone else’s kiddo? When I did my assessment, I found that there were some areas to celebrate, and there were some areas for growth.
I hope you’ll take the time to do a similar assessment. Building relationships with the next generation is a vital component of preparing and mobilizing them for the future. It requires time, commitment, and sacrifice, but the benefits are immeasurable. I once heard Nicky Gumbel, the founder of Alpha, say that he continues to be an Alpha helper because he’s always learning by sitting at a table with young people. As we invest in the lives of kids and students, we not only get to watch them grow in their relationship with Jesus, but we also grow in our own faith. So, let’s take the time to assess our relationships with the young people in our lives and make a conscious effort to be a part of their journey. Maybe send them a text or call their parents and ask how you can be part of the team that prays and supports their child. By doing so, we not only impact the next generation but also enrich our own lives in the process.
And who knows? You might even get invited to a birthday party and get a piece of cake!