Reclaiming our young

From my perspective, the article “Reclaiming the Church’s Young in a Culture of Change” by John W. Oberdeck (June/July 2007) did a great job of diagnosing youth today, but I consider it weak in affirming the power we have available for any and every problem that the devil throws at the church.

I have been shepherding churches for more than a half-century, spanning the dynamic years of church growth in the 1950s and the turbulent years of the 1960s and 1970s, and I am privileged to still interact with God’s saints to this day. During all those years, I have observed that we Christians—whether we are grade-school-age, teenage, or adult—have had a streak of hypocrisy. Adults and youth alike have hidden their fears about the “bumpy roads” they were traveling. Repeatedly, they knew all was not well between them and their Lord and between them and fellow saints. God’s answer to all our troubled times is the same as the Spirit revealed in the letters of Paul and Peter and John, namely, the mighty Word of God.

Rev. Carl Pullmann
North Platte, Neb.

I appreciated Professor Oberdeck’s insightful article. I would argue, however, that while Professor Oberdeck is correct in observing how “today’s adolescents feel abandoned by the adult world,” this dilemma is not without precedence—rather, it is simply a matter of degree.

As a teenager in the 1960s, I received terribly flawed advice, given with the best of intentions, from an adult friend of the family: “Tim,” he said, “enjoy this time. These are the best years of your life.” Predictably, with every inevitable adolescent mental and emotional pain that was to follow, I dwelled on those poignant words, depressed in the thought that, like Candide’s Dr. Pangloss, “this was the best of all possible worlds” and, therefore, only the worst would follow.

Conversely, the best advice I ever heard at that time was from my sainted father. He took me aside one day and flattered me by saying, “Tim, I believe you’re more intelligent than I am” (he obviously had my attention), “but I have one advantage over you—experience. I’ve been where you are now.”

Naturally, my first thoughts were that someone who could not even name the members of the Beatles would have a difficult time understanding my world and teenage mores. Then, again, I realized I had someone who loved me enough that he would not only take the time to listen, but may in fact have some appreciation of the universal challenges of adolescence.

Today’s youth, however, are further handicapped by a challenge that is political in nature. With every passing year, our K-12 educational system continues to grow in hostile opposition to our parental values, driving a relational wedge between parent and child.

Tragically, only parents of considerable financial means, or those who are willing to make tremendous financial sacrifices, are in a position to choose an alternative educational system that builds a harmonious relationship between the student, teacher, and parent.

The poor, of course, have no choice. May God grant someday the implementation of a universal education voucher for the sake of troubled youth and anxious parents.

Tim Utter
New Hope, Minn.


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