When Christians start a Children’s or Youth Ministry or community outreach program for youth, they usually have the best of intentions. There is talk of raising up the next generation to be strong Christians. There are goals of conversions or lives being changed by learning about and following God.
Yet, when you examine many of these programs a few months or at best a couple of years later – they are virtually indistinguishable from secular programs. Oh, a Bible story is still probably told, but the emphasis has totally shifted. Instead of their original goals, they are now trying to merely entertain or provide secular education or housing or clothing or a safe place to hang out with friends.
Don’t misunderstand. None of those things are wrong. It’s just that when your focus switches from the spiritual to the secular, you are no longer meeting the entire standard God set for us. In scripture, there is definitely talk of social justice. It is always, however, in the framework of caring for those who are already God’s people or for pointing the unchurched to God so they can follow Him.
We have forgotten even children and teens growing up in Christian homes today are in many ways unchurched. They may be getting little if any Bible at home. They are depending on your classes just as much for learning what God wants for them and from them as kids from the community.
When the Bible and spiritual lessons aren’t the focus, those kids and teens you serve are losing out in the biggest way possible. Sure, they may now graduate from high school and have food in their stomachs. You have left them spiritually vulnerable though. You haven’t given them more than a few random stories at best to help them understand God and what He wants.
They are almost worse off spiritually than when they first came to you. Because they now think of church as an extracurricular activity that can be fun if they have the time for it – not as the spiritual foundation for their entire lives. They won’t have learned that God and His people can help them live a life that is rich and fulfilled. They don’t know God’s wisdom can help them avoid a lot of the pitfalls of living in a fallen world. They don’t understand God is always there to help them when life is hard or unbearable. They don’t know what to do with their sins and their guilt.
It doesn’t matter if the only thing you can influence is the class you teach. Write down what you want your students to know about God and what He wants for them and from them before they leave your class. Develop a plan for teaching them those things. Let those godly goals be your focus. Add the secular back in if time allows, but your measure of success should always be the spiritual (not ignoring their basic needs in the process of course).
Don’t let your class drift and slowly become secular like so many others. Our kids need our focus and passion to be on their spiritual health. We can help meet their secular needs too, but never at the expense of making sure they have the tools to be a strong Christian and spend eternity in Heaven.