It is Saturday afternoon, July 20, 1985. The day is hot and humid, the water temperature of Lake Michigan is pleasantly warm. Perfect weather for a day at the beach! The Federation Board of Protestant Reformed Young People is sponsoring a beach party at North Shore in Grand Haven, Michigan. But. . .wait. . .where are the young people? Oh, yes, there are a few on the beach, a couple more in the water and four more just drove up. And here comes two more, but they decide to leave right away because “nobody’s here.” Slowly, a few more young people trickle onto the beach, but the number never exceeds thirty. Out of all the churches in the Grand Rapids area, only twenty-five or thirty young people are able and willing to show up at an activity planned for them to socialize with other Christian youths.
Maybe this was just a fluke, you say, unusual that so few showed up. Well, let us look back at another function for the Young People. On Saturday, June 22, the Federation Board sponsored a canoe trip and ended up in the red. The weather was not the best, but again, only about twenty-five guys and gals came to enjoy the day. And they did enjoy it! Why do so many of our young people feel “it won’t be any fun anyway”? Any outing can be fun IF all the young people come with a positive attitude. These are only two instances among other examples, such as poor attendance at banquets, retreats and even singspirations and the conventions.
Why the poor attendance at these functions? What is happening to cause today’s young people – tomorrow’s church – to shun such activities? No one likes to hear about the “old days” but it does seem like there used to be much more enthusiasm, excitement for and anticipation of such activities. Maybe this is a thing of the past? Are such activities unnecessary and boring to today’s youth? We pray not. We pray that the youth of the church will seek out fellow believers to socialize with to fellowship with and to have a good time with. But we cannot pray this, then sit back and figure that God will do the rest.
The Bible speaks to us as parents, pastors and youth leaders when it admonishes us to “Train up a child in the way he should go” (Prov. 22:6). It is our God-given calling to instruct them in all areas of their lives. We, as parents, must encourage our young people to participate in these functions, to “get involved” and to enjoy them. When an activity is announced on the church bulletin, do we say to Johnny, “Do you want to go?” And when he says “No”, do we drop it? Or do we positively say something like, “Now that sounds like fun! Do you think Joe would trade hours with you so you can go?” Or, “You can have the car that night, why don’t you see if you can get a group to go with you?” We cannot shove our young people into things but we can and must encourage them to the best of our ability.
Our youth leaders and pastors can help by encouraging the young people to attend these activities also. Again, the positive attitude is so important: the pastor can say “That canoe trip sure sounds like fun Saturday, hope you can all make it” as he pauses to greet them after church.
The Bible speaks to you also, young people, and points out your responsibility in this matter. Malachi 3:6 shows us that God blessed those who fear His name and “spake often one to another.” David writes in Ps. 119:63, “I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts.” You must seek companionship with fellow believers, not necessarily because you like them so well for their own sakes but because you love them and have the common bond of faith. So, what is your reaction when you hear about such a function? Do you have to check with your friends first to see if they are going, and maybe even feel like you have to talk it down to discourage them from going? Approach it positively and say, “I’ve heard it’s a ball to go canoeing, let’s try it.” It’s not a sign of weakness or being “out-of-it” to go to Young People’s functions. Indeed, it is your Christian calling, your responsibility to answer God’s command to walk a sanctified life. Not every activity will turn out to be a fantastic experience, but you will find yourself having a good time. A lot will depend on what you yourself put into it. If you go expecting a rotten, boring time you undoubtedly will have a rotten, boring time. If you go cheerfully, anticipating fun and fellowship of a good sort, you will find good Christian fellowship and fun.
But, you say, many are working and some of you are on vacation. Granted, this is true. Most of you do hold down part or full-time jobs which is to your credit. But, also, many of you that do work are able to “trade” time with fellow workers or “get off” occasionally for special activities and you do seem to manage this frequently if there is something you really want to do. It is also important that you never put so much emphasis on earning money that you lose sight of your most important calling – living a life of sanctification to the glory of God.
But what about the rest of you? Where are the girls who baby-sit Monday thru Friday during the summer, or the fellows who work Saturday mornings, even until 3:00 or 4:00? Where are those who are always looking for something to do on Saturday evenings? Many of you usually jump at the opportunity for a day or evening at the beach with your friends. And with what better friends can you enjoy Christian fellowship than with your classmates or fellow society members?
Now some of you are already thinking, “But we didn’t know anything about it. We weren’t well informed. ” This, too, is a problem. The Federation Board or anyone else who organizes such an activity should make sure that everyone hears about it and knows the details. For instance, for the beach outing, a special sheet could have been passed out to the young people stating what was planned, where it was to be held (provide a small map or directions to the park), what the arrangements and costs were for supper and encouragement for the young people to attend (maybe meet at the church for those who needed a ride). Those debating whether to go or not may have gone if they had all the details and had been encouraged to do so.
Young People, you are living in tempting, dangerous times. The sins of the world are constantly picking away at you from every side but especially in the areas of entertainment and amusement. You must not be too busy or too uninterested to join in fellowship with other Christian Young People. You must seek out entertainment and amusement of some sort-good or bad.
We as parents, pastors, fellow church members and you must pray constantly and work untiringly to seek the Christian fellowship you need to help you walk the difficult life of a Child of God. “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (I John 1:7)