The Strong Tree: Rooting Our Youth in Jesus

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
- Psalm 1:2-3

In Psalm 1:2-3, the writer paints a vivid picture of those who are rooted in Jesus; they are like a strong, vital tree growing beside a river.  Just as the river waters and sustains the tree, so Jesus sustains us.  Just as the tree bears fruit in its season, so Christians’ lives should bring about fruit.

However, in order for a tree to grow, it must first be planted.  It must be carefully positioned in the ground so that it can receive the optimum amount of nutrients and water without being drowned or washed away in its early years.  The tree must be tended to, trimmed and pruned, nurtured and cared for along the way.

Now consider the youth in your church.  How are these “saplings” being grown and developed?

In a recent study (ICM, 2014) conducted by the Institute for Church Ministry, Adventist young people were asked if they felt that their church family helps them grow spiritually.  Three out of four respondents (75%) “strongly agreed” or “agreed” with this idea.  While a small percentage (16%) remained unsure of the church’s role in their spiritual growth, only 9% “disagreed” or “strongly disagreed” with this statement.

This is encouraging.  It shows that – despite our human shortcomings – God has been able to use His servants within the church to start young people growing in the right direction.  However, as not all young people feel that they are being grown within the Church, there is still work to be done.

How can you grow your young people to be well-rooted in Jesus?  Here are some things that can enhance their spiritual experiences, both in and out of church:

  • Develop a relationship with Jesus.  Nothing is more important that introducing our young people to Jesus and encouraging them to have an authentic, real relationship with Him.  This may be done through teaching them how to pray, inspiring them through the testimonies of others, or by instructing them on the Bible.  A tree cannot grow simply by knowing about the river; it must come in contact with the river itself in order to reap the benefits of the water.
  • Build Bible knowledge.  A strong Biblical foundation is an important part of rooting our youth in Jesus.  As they go out into the world, they are certain to encounter those who do not know Jesus or have a warped picture of who He is.  We must give our young people a solid foundation in the Bible so that they can not only decipher what is true for themselves, but can help lead others in the right direction.
  • Be culturally aware.  Since many of us were small, we have heard the phrase “being in the world, but not of it.”  It is key that we do not put on blinders and neglect to see the issues and problems around us in the world.  Just as Jesus reached out to those in need, it should be our responsibility as Christians to do the same.  However, just because we understand the issues of the world does not mean that we have to become bogged down by them or allow them to cloud our view of Jesus.  We must create a culture of young people who clearly see Jesus and are excited to share Him with a hurting world!

How can you be a part of changing your church so as to “grow up” youth for Jesus?