Every age has presented challenges to young people, but this is an especially unique time in history. Challenges to long-held traditional values, exposure to temptation through technology, and materialism are things to which we are all exposed. As youth and young adults establish their own identity apart from parents, these issues expose vulnerability to drift away from the faith and values in which they were raised. It is important for us to minister to our young people in a way that helps them settle into their own faith experience.
Jesus said, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come!” Luke 17:1, 2. He goes on to pronounce a special curse on those who introduce young, vulnerable people to sin, causing them to stumble.
Objective 7 of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s strategic plan is to “help youth and young adults place God first and exemplify a biblical worldview.” While there are several issues that could be addressed, the strategic plan specifically sets forth three key progress indicators (KPIs): youth and young adults' relationship to scripture, Bible-informed views on social and personal issues, and a healthy relationship to media.
It is important to help our young people make decisions based on biblically faithful information and from perspectives that hold a high view of the inspired word. Under KPI 7.1, Seventh-day Adventist educational institutions are encouraged to teach the historical-grammatical method of Bible interpretation, and the historicist approach to understanding and interpreting prophecy.
Simply put, classes taught in Adventist institutions should lead our young people to understand, respect, and believe the Bible as God’s inspired word. They shouldn’t invalidate its message through higher criticism or spiritualizing away literal accounts as understood and transmitted by prophets under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21).
While cultural norms change and scriptural accounts are cast aside as fables, particularly the creation narrative, we are to teach our young people to give a thoughtful, rational response for both our origins as well as our destiny. This is the essence of what it means to be a Seventh-day Adventist.
Taking God’s word as “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16) will naturally influence how we live in this world. All of us, but particularly our youth and young adults, are vulnerable to accepting worldly practices and ideologies. KPI 7.2 addresses the need for “youth and young adults embrace the belief that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, abstaining from alcohol, tobacco, recreational use of drugs and other high-risk behaviors (FB 22).” The second aspect is that we lead them to “embrace church teachings on marriage and demonstrate sexual purity (FB 23).”
These are two key areas of lifestyle that are important for our young people to embrace, giving them a foundation for a life of fulfillment and happiness, and protecting them from negative outcomes that will follow them the rest of their lives.
Lastly, there is a need for increased ethical and responsible use of media platforms by students (KPI 7.3). Media reflects and reinforces the cultural values in society and is often contrary to biblical values. In both its consumption and as young people find their voice on social media, the Church should be an active influence in helping them understand the importance of applying Philippians 4:8 to the content they consume: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—these on these things.”
These goals are not simply legalistic requirements to be conformed to, but rather the fruit of a dynamic experience with Jesus, characterized by a life of full surrender to Him. These principles are not just for the young. We shouldn’t hold our young people to a standard to which adults are not willing or able to conform.
Let’s choose to model an experience with Jesus as Savior and Lord, living “by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4),” and helping our young people build a foundation of faith that will prepare them for eternity.