Church Youth Education - Is it worth it?
 2 Timothy 1:3-14

(c) Copyright 2008 Rev. Bill Versteeg

At one of our previous congregational meetings, we had a discusion about Youth Education.  Teachers have noticed that attendance has become intermittant.  Some youth who should be there never come.  The discussion looked at why? And what can be done?

One of the things that can be done is refresh our memories on the why of Youth Education.  Why make the effort to go to youth Ed?  Why go through the effort of making our kids go to youth Ed?  After all, if they don’t want to go, isn’t it so much easier as a parent to give in.  Let them stay at home.  Let them watch TV.  At least then you don’t have to go to church on Sunday Evening.  Give in to what all parents struggle with, myself included, taking the easy road, a little parental and spiritual sloth.  Why not, so many others are doing it.  Besides, the program has flaws.  Let them perfect the program and then I might send my kids.  The excuses can be endless.  I suspect we as parents no longer want to fight with our kids over things like youth education.  It is so much easier to give in.  Do that which does not require stomach.  Maybe I’ve gotten your hackles up..

Some points to remember...
As parents, we made a commitment.  You were asked when you baptized your child
    Do you promise, in reliance on the Holy Spirit and with the help of the Christian community, to do al in your power to instruct these children in the Christian faith and to lead them by your example to be Christ’s disciples?”
    You said “We do, God helping us”

What does agreeing to that questions involve?  To answer that question, turn with me to 2 Timothy 1:3-14

3 I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. 4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. 5 I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. 6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
8 So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, 9 who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.
13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

Let’s spend a few minutes defining youth education as we use this passage for a guide.  Paul says to Timothy  5 I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. 

This was a multi-generational faith.  Something that first lived in Timothy’s grandmother Lois, then his mother Eunice and then on to Timothy.  As our forefathers did - this is the normal way of handing down the faith...How was this faith passed on from generation to generation?

Obviously Timothy’s Grandmother and mother lived the life of Christians.  They modeled faith. They prayed with him.  They led him in a relationship with God.  They taught him how to talk to God.  But how did they teach him all this?

The answer comes to us from Israel’s culture.  The parents of Israel passed on the faith to the children by means of instruction embedded in story.  Every time they celebrated the Passover, every feast they would have as families and as nations included not only ritual practices but even more importantly, the story of the Exodus and what God had done for the people of Israel.  God gave them instructions to pass on,  the story in Deuteronomy 11 and a faithful Israelite parent would pass on the story to the children every opportunity they had.  They would tell the stories of creation, the patriarchs, the exodus with passion, imagination, colour, so much so that the children could experience that story all over again.  And in the process of telling the stories, instructions, commands, a way of life, a view of reality was passed on. 

Now it is well known that stories create culture.  Stories are a window on reality that help us to interpret our experience, help us to embrace values that we live by, shape our perception of relationships and meanings in life.  

Stories are windows to reality.  Let me give you an illustration, we often call it gossip.  If we have someone come to us and tell us a terrible story about what someone else did, it becomes very hard to see that person in a neutral light.  Gossip has the power to destroy a person - because people cannot see them for who they are anymore. The gossip story has created a window on the reality of who the victim of that gossip is.   In the very same way, the stories we tell shape our view of others, of reality, our view of this world and our view of ourselves.

It was because of those stories told again and again that Israel saw itself as a special and chosen people in this world, a people belonging to God, called out of darkness into his wonderful light.  It was through what Lois and Eunice told Timothy who told these stories again and again that Timothy came to be a believer.  Stories of faith create faith in children.  Scriptureal stories, personal faith stories create faith in children.

Now I must admit that it is in this area where many of our families have weaknesses.  There used to be the faithful habit of table devotions.  That is one important way of telling the stories.  Bedtime stories, comic book bibles, you name it, there are many ways to tell the story.  Our children need to hear the stories of Scripture because it shapes their minds and their faith.  The stories of scripture become them.  Now that is the first part of your commitment to raising your children up in the faith.  The second part has to do with youth education.  Notice Paul’s instruction to Timothy.

13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

Paul instructs Timothy not only to continue in the faith that he has inherited from his grandmother and mother (his father was a greek and probably not a Christian), he also is called to guard a pattern of sound teaching.  This sound teaching, or doctrine was a body of teaching that summarized the teaching of the whole scripture.  The simple truth is, all stories are interpreted.  Every story that is told, whether scriptures story or other life stories, they are all interpreted.  And it is possible to interpret stories in a way that are just flat wrong.

Let me give you some illustrations.

If you go outside of the traditional Christian community, you will find a group of Christians that believes in the Hindu/Buddest doctrine of reincarnation - you know the belief that states that after they die, people come to life in different forms depending on the carma they carry over from the last life.  So you better not step on a slug because that may be your great grandfather.  Now you might wonder how a Christian can come to that belief.  Well, they take passages like John 3 - 3 In reply to Nicodemus,  Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
They take this to mean that Jesus is teaching that you have to come back to life as some slug or whatever to deal with the carma of the previous life.  

Now many of us are wondering how in the world they can come up with that distorted perception of the story of Jesus conversation with Nicodemus?  The answer is that they do not listen to the whole passage or the whole of scripture.  The answer is that there is no doctrine guiding their interpretation of the story.  They neglect Hebrews 9:27 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 

They have neglected Romans 6:23 that states that the wages of sin is death, the wages of sin is not a life relived in a state of misery.  The wages of sin is death.

Now a person who has some knowledge of doctrine, who has a sense of the summary of teaching of the whole scripture knows immediately that a reincarnational interpretation of John 3 is flat wrong.

Interpreting stories is not just a matter of individual opinion as Postmodernism would like to assert.  When it comes to scripture, not all opinions are equal.  If we treat all opinions equal, including the unfaithful ones, we might as well concede to Richard Dawkins perspective the: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”  (The God Delusion, p. 29)

There is a pattern of sound preaching, right interpretation that Paul told Timothy to keep as a good deposit, guard it with the discerning help of the Holy Spirit, hand that teaching down to his hearers so that they in turn might rightly interpret the scriptures.   Paul and Jesus don’t give this instruction once, or twice, they give this basic instruction in its variant forms at least 30 times.  Any one of us parents knows, that when something has to be repeated at least 30 times, its important stuff.
13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

This evening, I will be reviewing the book, “The Shack” which has become very popular Christian literature.  Some people love it, some people are hesitant.  It’s a story, but the truth is its also an interpretation of scriptures story and it has big problems...  Come this evening, and I will tell you why...

The reason it is worth the effort to get your kids to come to youth education is we want them to learn how to interpret the stories they have heard.  We want them to understand in a way that is true to the entire scriptures.  This is not an issue of control, this is an issue of health, spiritual health, wellbeing.  Demons, the spirits of the age, teachers who seek illicit gain, like the Jones cult of many years ago, they will give alternate interpretations that destroy the heart and soul.  Guard the good deposit you place in your children, make sure they are a part of youth education.


(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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