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Unlocking the secret

Paul Clark with members of his drama club
WHEN I first arrived in the Burdekin, North Queensland, I went on a listening tour to discover what people’s hopes and dreams were for the church.

A quite consistent message emerged; they wanted a church where their children, both 40 and 4, could belong.

I suspect that this is a heartburst felt across the whole of the Uniting Church – we lament the reality that our children and
grandchildren are missing within our fellowships.

Many of our children have not abandoned faith, they have abandoned the church, or particularly the Uniting Church.

Being under 40, with a 4-year-old at the time, I think I bring some different wisdom to the equation.

We cannot change them, save through prayer and the Holy Spirit – we can only change ourselves and our fellowships.

Indeed, this I believe is the actual answer to this dilemma.

For far too long in the church we have proudly proclaimed that we are steadfastly holding on to the gospel against modern
culture, when what we are really doing is holding on to the previous culture in which the gospel came to us.

We must desperately cling to the gospel message, while just as desperately learning to communicate this message in a
language our children, both 4 and 40, can understand.

Indeed immediately after giving the 10 commandments in Deuteronomy chapter 5, what is the task given?

To pass this onto the next generation (Deut 6).

Parents have always had to sacrifice for the next generation.

As Spiritual parents we also must sacrifice our wants, comforts, and needs for the next generation.

Are we willing to give up the way we like it, to see our grandchildren in heaven?

Isn’t that what it boils down to?

Jesus said, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 18:3)

So what is the secret to connecting/reaching the younger generation?

It isn’t fancy technology, but that wouldn’t hurt.

It isn’t loud music, but you’ve got to expect that in the long run.

It isn’t amazingly talented, energetic youth leaders – hopefully they will be the result.

It isn’t even profound programs.

The secret I’ve found is this: an adult, taking an interest in them, doing something cool with them, and letting the gospel naturally leak out.

Kids are desperate for older people to be interested in them, to mentor them.

‘Cool’ can range from making short films to cooking cakes.

Indeed, if you find it compelling, chances are they will too.

What’s something you like to do?

Find some young people to invite to do it with you too (in a safe environment) regularly over a long period.

Build a relationship with them, and quite intentionally, but naturally, pass on your faith.

Wayne McHugh does it making candles to sponsor children.

I do it through drama.

Others are doing it fighting injustice.

Could you do it by knitting, baking, fi xing engines, gardening, or walking the dog?

Paul Clark has helped the Burdekin Parish cough and splutter its way to becoming an intergenerational church

Photo : Paul Clark with members of his drama club