The following is the devotions I prepared ahead of the Junior Church meeting on Tuesday evening. The beginning section is from Acts 12:1-16, but I have paraphrased from the NIV to highlight one particular point of the passage while still giving some context to the story:
In the early days of the church, soon after Saul’s conversion, King Herod was persecuting the Christians. He had James, brother of John, put to death and when this met with approval from the Jews, seized Peter. This was just before Passover, so Peter was put in prison until his trial, scheduled after the festival.
The night before the trial, Peter was asleep in prison. An angel appeared, woke up Peter and the chains fell off his wrists. The angel led Peter out of the prison, despite guards and closed doors and then left once Peter was a street clear of the jail. Peter then headed to the house of Mary, mother of John, where a number of Christians were gathered, praying.
Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognised Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, ‘Peter’s at the door!’
‘You’re out of your mind, it can’t be him’ they told her. When she kept insisting, “it is him, it is!” they said, ‘It must be his angel.’
But poor Peter, still waiting outside, kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and when they saw him, they were astonished!
You’ve got to love Rhoda’s enthusiasm. Little is said about her in the bible, but some versions refer to her as a servant girl and it’s easy to see her as a child. She is capable, she gets things done like answering doors and relaying messages, but sometimes her overexcitement and perhaps inexperience gets the better of her and she neglects things like opening the door. The grown-ups around her put a greater reliance on their own judgement than her testimony.
I read that passage and think of our young people, children and teens. They are enthusiastic, capable and do many things. But at the same time they still have a lot to learn and we’re not about to sign them up as chair of Mission and Service, or be local preachers.
But how do we balance these 2 things, allowing them to serve, letting them make mistakes and accepting the inevitable problems while at the same time taking time to teach and guide them? And how do we correct them without demoralising them? How do we allow them to exercise responsibility without over- or under-burdening them? How much is “enough” cotton wool to wrap them in?
Hats off to Rhoda – she told them what she saw and persisted even when the others didn’t believe her. We can’t assume our young people will persist if we keep belittling them.
This is an issue that no easy answer exists for. Every young person is different and even the best leaders will get it wrong sometimes. But we need to remember that we are not alone. We have one another. We have resources (books, magazines, online) and we have the support of Father in Heaven. We need to spend time sharing ideas, training and praying.
We spent the following few minutes in prayer. We each had a star sticker as a prayer prompt to represent one of the little “stars” under our care that they may grow into big stars that emit much light for God.
For any members of the congregation reading this, I urge you to pray for our young people and our Junior Church leaders/helpers and I certainly think it’s helpful, in addition to general prayer for them, to pick a few individuals to particularly focus on.