As a parent, I fear for the future of my kids. As a pastor a fear not only for my own kids but all young people connected with the church. I take seriously our desire to be a “generational” church in the sense that we want to pass faith on to future generations, but sometimes the future of the world around us looks so bleak that I find myself overcome by feelings of helplessness regarding my dual responsibilities as father and pastor. I know I’m not alone in this. There is a pervading fear about the future of our young people and the future of the church. So what can we do? To begin with, we need a better understanding of what fear can do to us.
Fear is a powerful thing. Fear can be motivating in the sense that it often keeps us on our toes and propels us to take action. But it can also have the opposite effect in that it can paralyze us to the point where we convince ourselves that the best action might be to do nothing. There is much power in fear, and in order to address our fears we need to have a better understanding of what fear really is.
The very essence of fear is grounded in the unknown. That’s really what we fear, isn’t it? We fear what “might happen” or what “could happen.” Think about what you fear. Fear always deals with the future. The word “fear” at its most basic level always deals with the future. We fear storms because of their potential. We fear a snake because it is unpredictable. We fear a shot at the doctor’s office because it “might hurt.” We fear that our kids “might not” turn out the way we hope they will.
The object of our fear can’t touch us in the present moment. However, fear itself can paralyze us. At his inauguration Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” I think he was on to something. As America was facing perhaps its most formidable obstacle–The Great Depression–FDR knew the greatest hurdle wasn’t simply overcoming the economic crisis. It was deeper than that. The greatest obstacle was helping the country overcome its fear.
Fear itself can grip us and entangle us to the point that it’s much more debilitating than the object of our fear.
There is much to fear regarding the future of our young people, but we must keep in perspective that God is in control. I know this is cliché but “cliché” doesn’t mean we just toss it aside. We must continually live in the truth that God IS in control.
We must also be reminded that we have a heavy responsibility to do our part to help future generations learn to pattern their lives after God’s will. As adults we must take seriously the impact we can have in this process. We don’t “do” Children’s Ministry just so our kids have something to do or so our adults can do their thing. We don’t have youth group and retreats for our teenagers just to keep them busy. We don’t encourage parents to lead their families in prayer, scripture reading, and God conversations just so we can check a box that makes parents feel better. No, these are intentional endeavors that shape the future of our young people and provide them with as many chances as possible to grasp onto their own faith in God.
So, do not let fear paralyze us. Our future depends on it.