The legendary “Fountain of Youth” has been the object of wishful thinking for millennia. Many stories have been built around a fountain pouring forth waters with healing properties, a well offering youthful vigor and regeneration, or a pool infused with age-defying elements.
Explorer Ponce de Leon sought this fountain in the 1500s. Others have expended much time and effort searching for a source of perfect health and vitality without effort.
In God’s Church, we recognize that such ideas are pipe-dreams fed by this world’s addiction to youth and beauty. But did you know that there is a “fountain of youth” in the Church today? It is a “pool” filled with joy and laughter, available to all.
This fountain is found in the Church’s young people!
How often have you engaged a child or teenager in the Church in conversation? If there are young people in the congregation you attend, do you know their names, ages and interests?
While on the surface this may not seem overly important, speaking to and maintaining relationships with God’s youth can teach lessons about how we should conduct our spiritual lives.
“Whoso shall receive one such little child…”
How much importance does God place on making time for young people? Consider the relationship Jesus had with children while physically on Earth, illustrated in Matthew 18:1-5: “At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
“And Jesus called a little child unto Him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
“Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in My name receives Me.”
Notice children were not shunned or isolated. Also note that Jesus was able to call a child, and the child came to Him. They were comfortable approaching Him, most likely because He had spoken to them at other times.
Christ explained elsewhere that children have qualities from which we should learn:
Children enjoy life—and each other. Most are overjoyed to spend time with other children. They playact scenarios, build structures, and sometimes organize whole cities together. Many times they will turn their tasks into games or schoolwork into their “office work.”
- Children are enthusiastic and zealous. Have you ever seen children who are told they will get ice cream for dessert? They often jump up and down, and may even break into song! When was the last time you felt similar excitement?
Children excel at expressing themselves. Their zest for life makes it fun to give things to them. God desires this same zeal to be in His people as we learn the truth.
When it is time to leave their friends, they are sad, but look forward to their next meeting. A child’s focus in life is about enjoyment. Of course, we cannot retain this entirely as adults, but it is not wrong to enjoy life. Learn through children to take pleasure in tasks and cherish others.Children are helpful and generous. Young people can be very outgoing, and freely give their time and resources—if they have been trained properly.
Imagine a child eating a dessert such as an ice cream sandwich. If you were to jokingly ask if you could have a bite, the child would most likely smile and hold out a dripping handful of chocolaty breading and dripping, sticky dairy. Hardly appetizing, but a genuine gesture!
While this is not to say that we should swap desserts at potlucks, we must look out for one another—live the give rather than get way of life. Children give their all, regardless of who is watching. There is a certain point between childhood and adolescence at which self-awareness enters. Boys and girls become cognizant of how others receive them, and concern themselves more with what someone may think rather than appreciating and enjoying life.
Recall the account of David dancing “with all his might” because the ark was returning. His wife, Michal, looked on with what she surely thought was a higher maturity, greater righteousness, and better understanding of protocol. God, however, saw that her “higher maturity” was really a wrong attitude, and that her comments were disrespectful to the King of Israel. God is more concerned with someone’s attitude rather than how another person receives them. Children are not cynical. From a young age, the world’s youth are told that a fat, old man from the North Pole can slide down skinny chimneys every December.
In April, the same group is told that bunny rabbits lay eggs on “church” lawns. No adult accepts either of these scenarios, yet many thousands of the world’s children do!
Why? Children believe what they are told—they are not cynical. While we are to prove all things (I Thes. 5:21) and search the scriptures as the Bereans did (Acts 17), there is a certain innocence, meekness and willingness to be taught that we should retain, or if necessary, regain.
Cynicism is a chief faith killer. God has called us out of a world that looks for reasons not to believe, into a Church that learns and accepts His revealed knowledge, found in the Bible and taught through His ministry. After proving the location of the true Church, we must be as trusting little children, ready to learn, re-learn and accept, all of its doctrines.
Redefine Your Comfort Zone
All too often, young people feel as if they are unable to speak to adults because their interests are different, or they may think that adults do not care to speak with them. At the same time, adults may feel unwelcome in a circle of kids.
Both of these scenarios should not be!
Think of it this way. The youth in the Church are the children of your brothers and sisters in Christ. In a sense, they are your “nieces” and “nephews.”
When attending a family reunion, one can become confused as to which child belongs to whom. Often, this stems from being unfamiliar with our extended family. In God’s Church, however, we have a commanded family reunion weekly and annually at the Feast of Tabernacles. Therefore, we should become acquainted with the children whose parents we will serve alongside for all eternity.
Several articles have been published in the Ambassador Youth magazine encouraging teenagers to step out of their comfort zones and speak to older members of God’s Church. In the same way, brethren should also step out of their comfort zones and speak with the youth.
How does one do this?
(1) Pray for help. It may take God’s help to become comfortable talking to people with whom you may not normally associate, including youth or children.
(2) Be friendly! Remember Proverbs 18:24: “A man that has friends must show himself friendly.” Offer a handshake (rather than messing up a lad’s combed hair). Simply being approachable and willing to talk means a lot to a young person. Bend down or sit nearer to their level. Smile and be genuinely interested.
(3) Ask about them and their interests. Keep in mind that children are often asked the same questions: “What is your favorite subject?” “What did you learn this week at school?” “What do you want to become when you grow up?” These questions are fine, but you will likely hear standard answers. If you genuinely want to engage a child, be sure to follow up these questions with others that force the child to think of more detailed responses.
Appreciate the maturity level of young people with whom you are speaking—whether preschool, elementary school, middle school, or high school—and adjust accordingly. When they tell you their names, you might want to ask them if they know what their names mean. Most people (including teens) do. They may even know from which language their surname derives. Listen to their answers and use them to form other questions.
(4) Share hobbies or interests with youth. For example, some Church members are experienced in crocheting, woodcarving or landscaping, to name a few. Today’s youth have little exposure to these things, and could find what you know about these subjects interesting.
(5) Remember names and interests. It will mean a lot if you remember young people’s names and interests over the course of a week, month or from one Holy Day to the next. It shows that you value what they shared with you.
(6) Learn to listen. This is a basic key in any relationship. Adults can be wonderful “sounding boards” to encourage youth, and let them know they are not going through anything that others have not already survived. Of course, however, an adult member should never put himself in the role of a parent or minister. In fact, when talking to a young person, it is important to speak with his parent or a minister if you have a concern. Often, young people share more with outsiders than they do with their parents or the ministry.
(7) Follow up. Come back to those whom you have met and rekindle a conversation. Even if you have forgotten a young person’s name, ask again, or listen carefully for someone else to use it.
Sanctified Through Parents
Consider a point from an oft-read story in the Old Testament. In Exodus 3, Moses was tending his father-in-law’s sheep when he saw a burning bush in the distance. As he walked toward it, he noticed that something was different about this bush. It was not burning up, even though it was in flames.
He decided to walk closer. As he did, God instructed him to take off his shoes, as the ground around the bush was “holy.” This shows that “holy” can apply not only to when God’s presence is in something, but also when He is among or in close proximity to something.
Armed with this understanding, examine I Corinthians 7:14. Unbelieving mates are referred to as sanctified, and children of those in the Body of Christ are referred to as holy. Both words come from the same Greek root word, and share some elements of meaning.
Children are afforded protection and an opportunity to have a relationship with God because of their relationship to their parents. Were they not given this special opportunity, they would be left open to the elements of Satan and this world without any help.
While children of those in God’s Church are certainly targeted by Satan, who is willing to use whatever means necessary to injure those in and among God’s Church, they have the help of God’s Spirit working with (or “among”) them (John 14:17). Therefore, children are referred to as holy. If they decide to be baptized, it is only then that the Holy Spirit is in them.
This understanding should drive home the importance of encouraging and fellowshipping with those whom, while they are young, God watches over.
Youth of God’s Church Are Different
As this world spirals further from any semblance of innocence and decency, its children are being corrupted at ever younger ages. Recall that in the Old Testament God instructed that some nations be totally destroyed—including children—because of the horrible practices to which these little ones were exposed.
The modern world is coming to a similar condition, with a similar punishment foretold. This is the generation we are striving to protect.
Take the first step toward youth in God’s Church. Learn their names, ages and interests. Set an example of proper fellowship. Share their natural enthusiasm.
Follow Christ’s example and make time to renew yourself through this real “fountain of youth”!