One of the darkest times in the history of my church began about 10 years ago. I won’t go into all of the problems that we had. God knows and He is still working to heal all of those old wounds. But I do want to tell you about one event, something that has stuck in my mind ever since it happened.
We had a very, um, interesting group of teens attending the church at that point. Like many churches, we had a van emblazoned with our church name, address, and phone number that ran on Wednesday nights, picking up teens who wanted to be at the service but didn’t have another way to get there. One night after a youth group meeting, one of the young men was in kind of a mood. He sat in the back, where the van driver couldn’t see him, making faces and rude gestures at other cars that passed the van. At least one of the other drivers was so upset by this teenager’s actions that a phone call was made to the church. The result? The youth group was shut down “indefinitely.” Instead of just the one young man being called out on his actions, the entire youth group was punished. I’ll never forget the reasoning behind the pastor’s decision—he was shutting down the youth group because many of the kids who came didn’t have parents attending the church, and therefore this ministry was not a big money-maker.
His attitude hurt me in a lot of ways. First, I hadn’t really thought of a church as a business before. Sure, I paid my tithe and I often gave extra money in offerings. And I knew that the church had bills to pay. But I always thought the main purpose of a church was to introduce others to Christ and to help those who already know Him to forge a stronger relationship with Him. I didn’t know the church was there to make money. Then again, I’m not the pastor. I’ve worked for years in the church, but always in a volunteer capacity. Maybe when your weekly paycheck depends on the amount of money in the offering plate each week you focus more on making money.
But what hurt even more was the attitude that those teens—kids who, judging by their action that particular night, really needed to know more about Christ—were not worth reaching out to because of their lack of income. Even today, when the church is under the leadership of a pastor who has a real heart for kids, that attitude angers me.
What if that had been the attitude of God all along? What if God just ignored young people because they could not “financially” support His “cause?” Can you imagine how many things in the Bible would have played out different?
Joseph was a kid when he was sold into slavery by his brothers. If kids didn’t matter to God, he would have died as a slave rather than rising to the top of the Egyptian government.
David was a kid when he used that slingshot on Goliath. The rest of the army was too scared of the giant to do anything. If kids didn’t matter to God, no one would have stood up to Goliath and the Isrealite army would have been destroyed.
Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were all young kids when they were taking captive in Babylon. They were not very old when their prayers to the one true God got them into trouble with the Babylonian king. If kids didn’t matter to God, Daniel would have been devoured by lions while his friends were burned alive in the fiery furnace.
Mary was a kid when Gabriel came to her, announcing that God chose her to be the mother of Jesus. If kids didn’t matter to God, Jesus would have been born to an old woman.
For that matter, if kids didn’t matter to God, Jesus probably would not have come to earth as a child!
Luke 18:16-17 says, “Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, ‘Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.’” (New Living Translation) Jesus didn’t say, “Let them come but only if they have money.” He cared about the children. Shouldn’t we do the same?
Another verse that comes to mind on this subject is found in I Timothy 4:12. Paul tells Timothy, “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” It is not age that determines your worth to God—it is that He created you that matters! It is not your age that determines what good you can do for His Kingdom—it is your willingness to follow Him.
The decision of that pastor to disband the youth group all those years ago is my inspiration for writing for teens. It might even go further back than that, back to when I was a teen and I connected with the Carman song “Our Turn Now.” My love of teens and tweens, my desire to see them develop a close relationship with Christ…that is why I created my pen name, Mary Lou Searfoss. I am not giving up on my women’s fiction books. I will continue to write those under my real name. But as Mary Lou, I will concentrate on material geared toward teens and tweens, especially toward young girls.