I was in a conversation with a middle-aged lay youth leader last week. He has been serving in his church with his wife for years. He has teenagers himself. He really cares for the teenagers and goes out of his way to love them and connect them with Christ, but he still appeared a bit discouraged that he himself was not connecting with them. Moments later he said, “I am too old to be a youth leader. I do not feel relevant.”
What is relevant?
Relevant is a word that is often overused and hard to define. It’s a buzz word. It is a word that gets tossed in the air but quickly evaporates into cultural jargon. Relevant supposedly has connotations towards how one generation relates to another, but is seemingly out of style or touch.
I like Webster’s definition of the word relevant, “closely connected or appropriate to the matter at hand.” Could older Christians be more relevant according to this definition than they get credit? I want to encourage all the older people serving in churches among teens, children’s Sunday school classes, young adults, and the man I met this week struggling to be relevant to today’s generation.
Am I relevant?
You might be old, but your faith is still refreshingly youthful. I think it is great when parents of teens serve their own teens in their church. My favorite servants as a youth leader were the old ladies in the church that would pray for and write cards to the teenagers. They loved it and the teens loved getting real mail. Faith does not have a sell-by-date expiration. Nothing stirs the faith of a church more than multi-generational ministry.
Youth are the same today as they were when you were a youth. I would also add, youth are the same today as when Jesus was a youth. Teens are sinners. When you were a teen you were a sinner too. Each generation of young people have the same temptations just disguised in new clothing: pride, lust, and issues with authority. Even though a decade or generation may have passed since you were a teen, as a sinner you have something in common, and together you can help each other look to Christ to fight your temptations.
The struggle to be relevant is one of the great lie of our ministry-age. To think about the amount of ministry that has been missed or messed up because elder believers did not feel relevant enough to minister to younger believers. This is a tragedy. Satan’s strategy is to deceive and the church has bit into the fruit of the tree of relevance. Young and old need to stop believing the lie that they are not relevant enough.
The gospel message is always relevant. It has been for 2000 years and it will be for 2000 more. It never goes out of date. Sinners need a Savior. Stick to this truth. Stop trying to be so relevant. Teach about Jesus and seek to live like Jesus. What could be more appropriate or connected to the matter at hand than the good news of Jesus?
Now I might sound like an old codger myself, but I’m an advocate of being relevant and change for the sake of change. However, while being relevant I do not want to forsake the gospel or compromise biblical truth. I am encouraged that for more than two millennia Jesus and His message has been relevant enough to transform lives and communities. It will for two millennia more! In my opinion, working in youth ministry the past 8-years, being relevant has less to do with you and more to do with your message. I’ll stick with Jesus.