June 8, 2017
YOUNG PEOPLE ENTERING ADULTHOOD BOUND FOR COLLEGE! By Bishop Dr. Wm. LaRue Dillard Writing this epistle takes me back to my young days when I first entered college in September 1959, following my military career. For many older Christians who had the blessed privilege of attending college, you know what it’s like to enter that new world. My grandson, Dylan-LaRue Dillard, graduated from San Dimas High School, on June 6, 2017, and I told him just how proud his grandmother and I are over his accomplishments, fortitude, and forwardness. And how his mother, BaLinda invested in him to excel. We are praying and looking forward to him entering college in the fall of 2017. The college years are a critical season in young people’s lives. For most, it’s the first time they are out from underneath mom and dad’s roof, and thus the first time they confront the issues and pressures that comes with adult life. It’s a time when they often grapple with philosophical questions about life, such as who they are, what they value, what they want to pursue in life, and what kind of person they want to be. It is an exciting time when they can explore new interests, learn about fresh possibilities, develop a vision for their future, and be challenged and stretched in good ways. Sadly, it’s also a time of life when many young adults leave the church. This is not a new trend, it happened when I was in college, but I was one of those who always attended a church wherever I was. Sundays was special to me, it was the Lord’s Day, and I always belonged to the church and attended faithfully. It helped me with my studies. Many scholars and journalists have noted----and many of us have witnessed firsthand----the prevalence of young adults moving themselves from participation in the local church during their college years. Research by multiple parties indicates that of the young people who are in the church in 1
high school, more than 60 percent are no longer in the church by age twenty-five. The likely explanations for Christian young people leaving the church are multiple. Perhaps they follow the example of one or both parents while they are still living at home, but are not biblically mature in their Christian faith. Perhaps they lack a role model who truly committed to participating in a local church. Perhaps they become overwhelmed with their newfound freedom in this season of life when they often have less accountability and more discretion than they did previously. REMEMBERING THE CHALLENGE OF COLLEGE--While each Christian young person’s situation is unique, a vital factor that contributes to the likelihood of young Christians remaining committed to the local parish church is the presence in their lives of meaningful relationships within the church body—and not just relationships with parents and siblings. The church is the family of God. The church cannot be a family without close ties, and if young adult Christians are not truly invited into the family and are not living as integral members of the family---enmeshed in all the glorious and messy things that accompany any family life---then their weak ties to the church body can be easily broken when new temptations and challenges appear on the horizon. God does not sanctify us in our silos---but instead to a life wherein we join the fellowship of Christian believers that span generations, sexes, classes, ethnicities, and cultures. It is not always easy, but this is how God chooses to refine His saints and make us like Christ Jesus. “RESEARCH BY MULTIPLE PARTIES INDICATES THAT OF THE YOUNG PEOPLE WHO ARE IN THE CHURCH IN HIGH SCHOOL, MORE THAN 60 PERCENT ARE NO LONGER IN THE CHURCH BY AGE TWENTY-FIVE.” The college years is a distinct time it is a---time when one’s primary vocational calling is to study and to prepare for future callings. But it is not a four-year-out, during which one is exempt, from the responsibilities and benefits of church membership.
On the contrary, the college years count---and count a lot---as is mentioned above on college-age defection from the church. The habits of the heart, mind, and hand that are practiced during this season often become normative for one’s attitudes and behaviors throughout life. Remember young adults, no other institution can replace the church. Thus, I am deeply encouraged every time I see or hear about our young men and women worshiping side by side with their formal teachers in church. When our young adults attend church away from home, they are remembering what they have been taught in their formative years in their home and church. Therefore, when they return home, they come to worship the Lord with thanksgiving for He brought them through their challenges at college. This is a good sign pointing to a life time commitment to the body of Christ. DEVELOPING RELATIONSHIPS IN THE CHURCH Considering the critical nature of the college years for young Christians, I offer two appeals to those of us who are older saints. FIRST, we need to develop relationships with children and youth in our parish church body before they head off for college. We ought to be reminded that these covenant children and youth----though they are young, and may have interests and tastes vastly different than ours---are no less a part of the body of Christ, and hence are brothers and sisters whom we are called to disciple and invest our lives in. I have taught our parish teachers and youth directors for years to help them to understand the extent of the influence they have on children and youth. The Sunday Church School hour to fervently teach the holy Scriptures, build relationships, and set biblical examples before our youth. The earlier we can build meaningful relationships with them, the better. We need to guard against viewing children simply as “Brother Joe, or Sister Lucy’s child”; we need to know them as individuals, learn what makes them tick, what excites them and what worries them, and have real conversations with them. Throughout my churchmanship, I have shown a love for children and youth, they are important to the body of Christ. We ought to pray for them regularly. Considering the reality that existing relationships in the church are highly determinative factor in whether a student will remain in the church during his or her college years, we can pray that our investments in young people’s lives are not only affecting them now, but are contributing to their future commitment to the church.
CHRISTIANS PRACTICING HOSPITALITY— As holy men and women of the Lord’s church, we need to be particularly attuned to the college-age young adults in our midst, and we need to be intentional about investing and welcoming them into the life of the church. College life, these students are often experiencing a number of transitions and challenges at this stage of their lives, potentially including navigating a new city, not living with or having family nearby for the first time in their lives, not having many established friendships locally, learning the ins and outs of college life, building new relationships, looking for part—time employment or a summer internship, and determining what course of study they want to select and what career they want to pursue. These can be trying situations regardless of age. It can be easy for those of us who are older to remember the degree to which those in college are free from many of the responsibilities of adult life. At the same time, we can easily forget that, though they may not have a mortgage to pay or children to feed, these young adults are nevertheless wrestling through many decisions that will likely shape the course of their lives and the people they become. As older brothers and sisters in Christ, we ought to see them with an empathetic eye, pray for them by name, and invite them into our lives with gracious hospitality. JOIN WITH THE BODY OF CHRIST---Let me give a word of exhortation to those currently in college or headed there soon: Love the church congregants. As imperfect as it is, being made up of a collection of sinners; it is nevertheless the bride of Christ and a great gift to us. Every saint is called to be a part of Christ’s church, and so too are you---regardless of how temporary or permanent your current living arrangement is, how many other Christians you regularly interact with, and whether you have crossed the threshold of major life decisions. You are invited and called to worship to worship together with the body of Christ and to seek ways to edify fellow saints. God has ordained growth and joy for your life through His church; you don’t want to miss out on that. May I say that the church need young adults. It’s not just that you benefit from the church, but the church also benefits from you. We each bring our own unique
talents, spiritual gifts and characteristics and needs to the body, and our congregation is weakened when it lacks any segment of its members or any believer.
I believe that the vitality and perspective and needs that young adults often bring to the body are blessings without which the church is not whole. The church is blessed to minister to your needs and to be ministered to by the gifts you bring. So, to those of my parish who are older: Do not neglect opportunities to invest in and care for young adults and college students in our congregation. Forming meaningful relationships with them is an investment in the future of Second Baptist Church. To those young people of ours who are in college: Do not neglect the church. It is the body of Christ, and in it there is life to be had that will sustain you for all your days and endeavors. Jesus says: “If anyone one wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but he who speaks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him” (John
I will seek, claim, and act on God’s personal will for my life to be the unique person He intended me to be. Will you join me? Anyone who does God’s will, will be able to judge the authority of my biblical teaching. What you do for God gives Him pleasure! Until He Comes, I Am Serving Christ Joyfully Bishop Dr. Wm. LaRue Dillard Parish Under-shepherd