Today we begin looking at the details of Nehemiah’s four step process for dealing with the burden he had for the people in Jerusalem. We as leaders should have a burden for the conditions our young people face and an action plan for supporting them.
Step 1 – Nehemiah heard the report of his city. In response, he spent four months of fasting, praying, weeping and mourning.
Our communities are deeply broken by the conditions society, some self-imposed, others that have been created. We face economic breakdown with parental loss of jobs or the inability to acquire employment. Businesses are struggling or closing. We face family breakdowns in two family homes, parental relationships and the relationships between parents and kids. Single family homes are overburdened by the responsibility of the one parent. Our educational system now pits teacher union reps against administration looking to get control of massive budgets; while neither is really focused on the education of our young people. The young people themselves don’t see the true value of education and the capable ones dummy down to fit in and avoid peer pressure, thus affecting their long-term prospects of economic self-sufficiency. Our men are being broken by a system that has devalued them and targeted them in a way that makes high school to prison the norm for a large number of our men. The political system is run by power brokers whose self-interest sacrifices any other efforts. The little man with few financial resources has no voice. Services and assistance are being cut or redirected to those who don’t have the greatest need. People have lost hope and see no way out and are giving up.
The challenges described above are not just in the urban communities; I am describing all communities. Unfortunately, we don’t always want to face up to the reality of trouble existing in our own community. By not addressing these head on we leave our young people exposed to deal with what they see, in their own way. I conducted a workshop, last week, at a suburban youth ministry and after the workshop the adults were amazed at the attitudes of their young people and the experiences they were having. The youth workers assumed the issues were in the other communities, not theirs. They said they have “the good kids” but learned they were not equipping the young people to effectively make Godly decisions. The young people began to discuss not only their issues but also how they felt the youth workers didn’t understood them, were not equipping them or living as an example for them. This was incredibly eye opening to these youth workers. This upper middle class, suburban, curriculum rich ministry learned they had not spent much time in collective prayer seeking God’s guidance in equipping their young people to deal with the issues they face. Now don’t confuse my point; curricula is necessary but not the end all be all to helping our young people grow.
As youth workers and leaders, we have to engage more in the lives of our young people to understand what they are dealing with day-to-day and not assume everything is ok. Issues may not be the same in every neighborhood, but every neighborhood has issues. Your burden for the young people should lead you to find your neighborhoods issues. That search starts with prayer and fasting on their behalf. Engaging them in conversation about their challenges and taking those issue to the Lord for guidance.
The Bible says when Nehemiah heard about the challenges of his people he was grieved –
3And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.
4And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,
5And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:
Nehemiah was a middle class person who had a seat at the table with those in control. He was considered successful and set. Even though, he was concerned about his people and felt he needed to take action. He knew that phrase the old folks us to say and we must understand today that – “but for the grace of God, go I”. People have to care and we are the people who have to lead the caring. Our young people are depending on us to step up and equip them to be able to discern and make Godly decisions. Stay encouraged. Stay engaged. Stay upon the Wall. Our young peoples DESTINY demand our diligence.
Next week we will look at Nehemiah’s next step after praying and fasting.
What is the burden you have for the young people? How is your team collectively getting it’s understanding? How are you engaging them? Join the conversation and be a blessing to someone else.