“You can’t tell me you honestly believe they weren’t messing around before they got married.”
I got married just under two months ago (hence the lack of posts since then) and I’ve been thinking about this topic ever since the days leading up to my wedding. Now, as I sat on the phone hearing someone tell me that another person said this to them, I wasn’t sure if I was more taken aback by the fact that people were actually talking about my husband and I in that context, or if it was because people didn’t honestly believe that Christian youth today still believe in holiness.
I decided to not take it personally. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard a comment like this and I was aware that it was probably stemming from a general belief today that all teens and 20-somethings are giving in to worldly pressures. So it made me want to shed light on what many Christian youth are really doing today.
1. They’re hanging out all night … to pray.
I know in today’s world it’s common to believe that if teens and young adults are hanging out all night it’s probably because they’re drinking and/or doing drugs, but if your kids are in the church, chances are their all night hang outs probably include some intense interceding, light-hearted (clean) fun, and discussion of people’s needs and outreach. I remember my pastor in high school would always say, “Nothing good happens after midnight.” In the worldly sense, true, but the times he’d let us take over that church for the entire night were some of the best nights I’ve ever had.
2. They’re sitting around talking about people … and then getting up and helping them.
There was a lady I used to know who had helped her son and his family get an apartment. They rarely saw each other so she had no idea her son was addicted to drugs and that the apartment was being overrun in filth. Well, the son and his wife got arrested one day and the lady and her husband got custody of her grandkids. When she went to the apartment to clean it up and get her deposit back, she was shocked to see how they had ruined it. Trash, needles and mold covered the apartment. An area where they kept their two young kids locked up had cheerios littered on the floor. She was devastated. She beat herself up wondering how she never knew this was going on.
She had told this to someone in the church and instead of passing judgment, he offered to get together some people at the church to help clean it. A few adults and the teens in the youth group all got together to clean the apartment for her. They didn’t sit around and say, “How could she not know?!” They didn’t say, “What did she do wrong to make her son turn out like this?” No, they prayed for her and they spent the entire day scrubbing that apartment until it was fit enough that she got her deposit back. She had a long journey with her grandkids and the youth talked about how to help them rather than how horrible it was.
3. They’re sneaking off at church camp … to go have an impromptu worship service.
I’ve heard multiple people say that one problem with church camps is that some of the youth sneak off to do things they shouldn’t. While I am aware that this can and does happen at times, it has not been the majority experience I’ve had at church camps. I had only heard of this happening once while I was in leadership at two different campgrounds over the course of several years and it turns out that the incident didn’t really happen. Someone falsely accused the two teens of doing so.
That said, I do remember several years ago one of the pastoral couples stayed up all night in the mess hall with the youth so they could play games and hang out. As the sky barely started to lighten about 10 of us left and walked over to the large tent where the church services were held. I don’t know what came over us but we decided we would wake the camp at 5am with an impromptu worship service. One of the young men turned on the sound system and the rest of us all picked up instruments or microphones and just played and sang. We may have left the large group, but it wasn’t to do anything but glorify God (and although early, many of the campers enjoyed the wake up call!)
4. They’re doing things with their boyfriends and girlfriends … like staying pure.
I’m not going to lie and say that church kids don’t face temptation. That would be the farthest thing from the truth. And I also believe that if someone does give in to temptation that God is quick to forgive (so if you’re reading this and have fallen, know that God’s grace is there. He can make you whole again!). That said, it seems like the number one negative thing people believe about youth in church is that they are sneaking around and doing inappropriate things. Maybe some are but I don’t believe for a second that it’s the majority.
When I was in high school some friends and I decided it would be awesome to wait until our wedding days to have our first kisses. I don’t know where any of those girls are today or whether or not they followed through. But I was adamant I would. This wasn’t to come off as holier-than-thou and definitely didn’t mean I had never made mistakes or never needed God’s grace in my life. It meant that this was something special to me that I wanted to be special for my future husband. So I waited. Of course, people had a hard time when they found out my first kiss would be on my wedding day. “Just because they’re not kissing doesn’t mean they’re not doing anything else.” “You can’t tell me you honestly believe they weren’t messing around before they got married.” “That wasn’t really your first kiss, was it?” Someone else went so far as to accuse my husband and I (while we were still dating) of being seen at a hotel together in the middle of the night (which we had always decided to be home by midnight per the “nothing good happens after midnight” idea).
Now, in all fairness, I can’t complain that people were talking about me or curious. I was in leadership and had taught some of these peoples’ kids and teens and knew that I was an example to them. But I just couldn’t shake off how people just assumed that nobody could have made it to 27 without kissing someone, or that a couple could decide to remain abstinent until marriage. It’s almost as if we teach our kids to do so but then deny that it’s possible to follow through.
My pastor has always taught me that you shouldn’t focus on what people say and feel the need to defend yourself constantly. When Jesus was falsely accused He kept silent. So these statements don’t so much bother me as knowing people might think and say the same to other teens and young adults who are also dating and will be getting married. Just because some kids willfully go against the Bible and others in moments of temptation fall, doesn’t mean all are doing so. Be smart about what your kids are doing but also have faith in them that they want to please God in their relationships and remain holy. I strongly believe a majority do.
5. They’re deciding at 18 if they’ll stay in church … and they’re choosing yes.
About ten years ago I was sitting at a church conference with my little brother beside me (who was 5 at the time). I had given him some paper and a pen to draw on and he had made several drawings of Jesus. He was working on a picture of Jesus on the cross when a lady sitting in the row in front of us turned around and said, “You should save those pictures so someday when he’s 18 and decides to backslide you can show them to him and remind him that he once loved God.”
I was angry. Angry that she would say that, and angry that he sat there and heard it. I quickly responded, “I intend to save them because I like them but he won’t be backsliding.” As I sat there waiting for service to start (and still pretty mad) I began to wonder about what was going on in this lady’s life. Did her kid just recently backslide? Maybe she regretted saying what she did the moment it came out of her mouth, but maybe she was in so much grief over someone else backsliding that it just shot out. I felt bad for both her and my brother. I don’t ever want someone to put doubt in his mind over whether or not he will live for God. He has always loved God and I believe that he has a bright future living for the Lord.
I get that a lot of kids leave church as soon as they’re on their own. I’ve had several friends over the years walk away. But I have a lot more who stayed. Instead of assuming that our kids are just going to up and leave as soon as they’re old enough, why don’t we focus on encouraging those in church to the find their value in God and have no need to walk away, and encourage those who have left to also find their value in God so they place their worth in His hands instead of in the world?
I hope the title of this post is slightly misleading. Most of the time articles like this focus on negative things–new drinking and drug trends, new sexual trends, internet misuse. But if people are getting to the point where we always expect those things to be what are the trends with youth, I want to highlight that it is not taking over our church youth groups. I believe our kids love God and want to serve Him and please Him. I believe they want to live clean lives and help others. I believe they want to be used for His kingdom. Yes, we must be aware of the dangers presented to youth today but we need to also focus on encouraging them and believing that they love God and want to live right. They’re not all out trying to do wrong things–they’re in our churches trying the best they can to live recklessly for Christ.