When I hear Christians bemoan the large number of young people leaving the church, I often offer to help them make a few meaningful changes in their ministries to children and teens that can make a huge difference in the retention of young people. They are interested… until they realize it is not something they can buy and use to have great results with no additional effort. When I suggest any changes – even minor ones – that require any effort at all – they lose all interest in changing anything they are currently doing – even though they admit it isn’t working.
To me, one of the scariest verses in the Bible is found in Colossians 3:23, ”Whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord, not men…” We are commanded to give whatever we do our best effort – as if the Lord were our boss, because he is. Wouldn’t the Lord expect our very best effort in ministry? Especially when that ministry is to children and teens – an obvious passion of Jesus? Why then are we content to ”phone it in” when ministering to young people – making the excuse that God doesn’t require us to minister to them and that there wasn’t children’s ministry in the time of Jesus (Which by the way isn’t technically correct – the local synagogues provided the education for children in all subjects – which were taught using scripture.)
So what does effort look like in ministry – especially the type of effort required by Colossians 3:23? The Bible doesn’t say specifically, but I think this little guide used by many school teachers sheds light on the topic for our consideration.
- Exceptional effort. I worked very hard. Ideas like ”I gave it my all” and ”I was as close to perfect in my effort as possible” apply to the effort that was invested.
- Great effort. There is probably something I could do to make it better.
- Good effort. I know I could have done more.
- Okay effort. There are a lot of things I could do to make it better.
- Little effort. I didn’t even really finish it.
- No effort. I didn’t really try at all.
While exceptional effort often leads to exceptional results, that is not always the case. Notice that the scripture doesn’t address the results, but the amount of effort invested in doing a task as well as one can. Which brings us back to the all important question…how much effort are you/your ministry/your church really putting in to your ministries for children and teens? Are you willing to have a conversation with Jesus about why your effort isn’t your best? Will he accept your answer or view it as a poor excuse for not putting in enough effort? Those are questions we all need to start asking ourselves and each other now – before it’s too late for the current children and teens in our ministries.