"Tell your children about these things, then let your children tell their children, and let your grandchildren tell their children." (Joel 1:3 NCV)
God says we have a responsibility to pass on what we know to those younger than us. Thats a responsibility for all of us not just parents, but everyone. This responsibility is of extreme importance to you as a pastor. God is calling you to pass on everything he has shown to you to a new generation that will outlive you.
What have we been called to pass on? Knowledge, perspective, conviction, skills, and character.
Jesus modeled all five of these in how he trained his disciples. For the past 27 years, weve built Saddleback on these five building blocks as well. Whenever I prepare a message, Im thinking about each of these five elements. But you dont have to be a pastor to help people grow in these areas. Teachers, supervisors, parents, and just older friends in your congregation all of us need to be passing on these five building blocks to younger generations.
1. Help them to acquire knowledge.
Proverbs 16:16 says, Its much better to have wisdom and knowledge than gold and silver. (NCV) In other words, its better to be smart than wealthy. Its better to have knowledge than money.
How do you help kids or young adults acquire knowledge? Theres lots of ways you can do it. You can take them on trips with you. You can go to the library with them. You can pass on books to them that are important to you. Im going to pass on a library of more than 10,000 books to my children. Why? Its part of me passing on a legacy of what I think is important.
Still, the most important way to pass on knowledge to the next generation is for you to be interested in it as well. Learning is contagious. Youve got to want to learn. You must model it. As a leader, this should be second nature to you. All leaders are learners. Ive told my staff that for years.
Whats the most important knowledge to acquire? Knowledge about God. The Bible says in Proverbs 1:7: Knowledge begins with respect for the Lord. Knowledge of everything else is important. In fact, God wants us to know as much about as many different things as we can, but he wants us to know him more than anything else. The most important knowledge you can pass on to the next generation is knowledge of God. I expect thats a vital part of your ministry.
2. Help them broaden their perspective.
What is perspective? Perspective is seeing life from Gods point of view. Thats not the natural way for us to see things. We normally see life from our point of view. Thats what causes all our problems.
Perspective answers the why questions of life, just as knowledge answers the what questions. The more you get Gods perspective on life the more you understand why whats happening is happening.
How do you help young people gain perspective?
Introduce them to the Bible. Help them to become a Bible reader because Gods perspective is in his Word.
Introduce them to wise people. The quality of their lives will be determined by the relationships they choose to have.
3. Help them cultivate convictions.
The people who changed this world for good or bad were those with the deepest convictions. They were passionate people. When you have convictions, you can accomplish almost anything.
4. Help them develop skills.
Skills answer the how of life. And todays youth need our help in developing both learning skills and life skills. They need to learn how to do things from figuring out their multiplication tables, to how to make their bed, to eventually how to raise children and get along with a spouse.
You see, hard work doesnt guarantee success. Wed like to think it does, but it doesnt. I know a lot of people who work hard and are not successful. Why? Because its not hard work that brings success. If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed but skill will bring success. (Eccl. 10:10 NIV) The Bible says skill will bring success.
So how do you help people develop skills? There are three ways.
First, identify their S.H.A.P.E. (spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality, and experiences). Its how God has wired us. Want to change the destiny of a young person? Help them understand what theyre good at.
Proverbs 22:6 says, Train a child in the way he should go.(NIV) The Hebrew there literally means in his natural bent, the way hes naturally wired by God. If you try to train a young person in a way that opposes his S.H.A.P.E., youre doomed to failure.
Once youve helped them figure out what they are good at, you help them practice what they are good at. The only way you develop skill is by doing it over and over and over again. Whether the skill is hitting a baseball or preaching a sermon, the more you do it, the more skilled you become.
Then you trust them with responsibility. Youve got to let them do it on their own. People respond to responsibility. If you treat kids like babies, youre going to have to diaper them the rest of your life.
5. Help them establish character.
This is the pinnacle. God says youre going to take your character to heaven so thats whats important.
The Bible says, Take on an entirely new way of life, a God-fashioned life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you. (Eph. 4:23-24 MSG) This is one of Gods five purposes for our lives to grow up and develop the character of Christ.
How do you help young people establish character? There are many ways. Let me just give you two.
Protect their minds from evil thoughts. Garbage in garbage out. Proverbs 15:14 says, A wise person is hungry for truth while the fool feeds on trash. (NLT) The Bible says we want to keep youth innocent regarding evil, so that they become mature in what is good.
Dont protect them from difficulty. As I wrote in chapter 25 of The Purpose Driven Life, we grow through tough times. We build character not by having everything go our way. Failure is not fatal. Everybodys got to learn that. Allow your kids to learn from their failures.
Anytime youre around somebody younger than you, you can do these five things. Whether its a kid in your church, one of your own children, or a neighborhood kid that needs an older person in his life, theres someone in your life that needs you to help acquire knowledge, gain perspective, cultivate convictions, develop skills, and grow in character.
A lot of what we do isnt going to matter five minutes from now much less five years or 500 years from now. But when youre building into a life, thats the most important thing you can do. Itll last for eternity. It has eternal implications.
Who can you help?
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and best-known churches. In addition, Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose-Driven Life and The Purpose-Driven Church, which was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th Century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for ministers. Copyright 2005 Pastors.com, Inc. Used with permission. All rights reserved.