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These Little Ones
By Nancy Canwell

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven” (Luke 18:10).

I sat outside the Academy in my car talking with God. The next day I would officially be the youth pastor of a large church. The job also included chaplain duties at the local Academy.

I like kids. In fact, I’ve worked with kids since I was a kid! But I knew that if God was going to use me in this setting, I had to do more than like them—I had to love them. I had to have a burden for the youth of our church.

And that’s what I prayed for that evening in my car. “Lord, please give me a burden for these kids.” Nothing happened. I drove home and opened my Bible. I was planning on searching for something from God, but my Bible opened to Luke 18 and the parable of the lost sheep. All my life I’d heard this story in relation to evangelism. But that night I realized that taken in context, the lost sheep are kids!

In the parable, Jesus tells about a man who owns 100 sheep, and only one wanders off. He’s not satisfied that he still has 99 because he loves that one sheep that left his safe care. So He goes searching for it. He doesn’t wait for the sheep to return. His love sends him out. When he finds the sheep, he is overjoyed! And then Jesus says these words: “In the same way, your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish” (vs. 14).

As I sat across the desk from my senior pastor the next morning, I asked him what my job description was. He looked at me and said, “Love the kids.” And I knew what that meant. Love, to teens and young adults, means time. So I set up regular office hours just for the teens, and guaranteed them that I’d be there. I opened our home to them once a week for snacks and Bible study. I attended all their events—the choir and band concerts, the basketball and volleyball games, and the class trips. I ate lunch with them in the cafeteria.

Having worked with youth and young adults for years, I’ve discovered that they don’t need adults in the church to be “cool”—they need us to care. They don’t need to be preached to—they need to be listened to. They don’t need to be entertained—they need to be involved.

Once I gave them my time and developed a friendship with them, those who were spiritually strong helped me reach out to those who weren’t attending church. And that was another key: peer examples and invitations are powerful reconnecting tools.

I involved the youth and young adults in everything I did. I didn’t want to be a one-woman show, so as I got to know them, I discovered their unique gifts. And whether that gift was speaking, music, writing, acting, planning, encouraging, etc. I got them involved in ministry, and that gave them a reason to come to church. They were now a part of the body.

We need to be like the shepherd in Luke 18. If we have 12 kids attending our church and only one isn’t, we need to go out and search for that one. Why? Because he or she is a child of God—a lost sheep that needs to be carried home.

Prayer Focus: Pray that we would empower the reconnecting ministries of youth and young adults. Pray that we would make ourselves available to advocate, equip, involve, and cooperate with them in this ministry.

Recommended Resource: The Center for Creative Ministry “Youth and Young Adult Reconnecting Resources” http://bit.ly/1xip9c2.