Monday 16 December 2013

Cranes and Youth Ministry

Have you heard about a bird called the whooping crane?

Seventy years ago there were only sixteen whooping cranes left in the world. So biologists got to work and there are now over 600 whooping cranes.

The scientists wanted them to live as normally as possible. And part of the normal year for a whooping crane involves migrating from a colder northern state in America to sunny Florida.

The scientists tracked the birds as they migrated. They found that some groups of birds arrived at their destination perfectly and others veered 60 to 80 kilometers off course. Getting that lost is actually really dangerous - adding kilometres to an already long journey means it’s harder to survive.

The difference between the two groups was that the groups that flew straight to their destination had an older bird. The older bird knew the way to go and guided the others there.

At the Girls’ Retreat for my youth group I was asked to share about the importance of mentorship, discipleship, living in community and accountability. It was such a privilege to share with those beautiful ladies about the life God calls us to.

As part of the talk I shared about the whooping crane. And how we are a lot like whooping cranes. We need people around us, people who are wiser and who know what we’re going through to show us the way. We see this throughout the Bible, especially in chapters like Titus 2.

As I prepared for my talk I also found some interesting research from the Barna group. The Barna group conducted research among Millenials (the generation born between 1984 and 2002) and what differences existed between those who stay active in church and those who “drop out”. You can read their results here but there is one factor I want to highlight.

They found that 7 out of 10 Millennials who dropped out of church did not have a close friendship with an adult and nearly 9 out of 10 of those who dropped out never had a mentor at the church.

Compare that statistic to 28% of Millennials who stay had an adult mentor at the church other than their pastor. Meaningful relationships seem to be an important factor in whether or not young people stay active in the church.

Now, of course just because those are the statistics doesn’t mean those meaningful relationships completely caused the difference – it may be that because the young person is still in church they have meaningful relationships in that church (rather than because of those meaningful relationships those young people stay in church). Correlation does not mean causation (you can take the girl out of the psychology degree but you can’t take the psychology degree out of the girl).

But, regardless, there is something key about investing in those younger than us. Listening to them, giving them a voice, encouraging them, challenging them. I know that I am deeply indebted to amazing men and women of God who have done those things in my life over the years.

This is all especially true in Central and Eastern Europe where young people may not have Christian parents to model godly living and encourage them in this way. But it is also true all over – and we are commanded to teach those younger than us. 

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6 v 6-7

I pray that God will give us much grace and wisdom as we live this commandment out. 

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