Youth need models of integrity, biblical commitment, Yeary says
FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)--What young people need today more than ever are examples of integrity, Dan Yeary told youth ministers at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's Youth Lab.
"One thing about kids, they respect people who can be trusted because [trusted people] are pure," said Dan Yeary, pastor of North Phoenix (Ariz.) Baptist Church. Those who minister to youth thus must be willing to be holy, Yeary said, urging youth ministers to take up their crosses and focus on Christ for their youth to have examples of persons of integrity.
The conference, which included seminars and joint worship times, drew more than 350 youth ministers from the seminary and numerous states April 16-18 at the Fort Worth, Texas, seminary.
Yeary, a Southwestern graduate and pastor of one of the largest churches in the Southwest, said God's people have always been on the edge of opportunity and every generation has had a unique chance to witness for Christ.
"Will we take advantage of it or just pretend?" he asked.
Yeary quoted the Joshua 3:5 account of the Israelites' preparations to cross the Jordan River and enter Canaan. He noted the Israelites had never fought before, did not know how to swim and were expected to cross the Jordan while it was in flood stage.
Before they lined up to cross the river, Joshua commanded them to consecrate themselves, or make themselves clean in preparation for God's manifestation, a commandment that holds true for youth ministry today, Yeary said.
Youth ministers also need to concentrate on God's Word, Yeary said. He recounted God's command to the Israelites to stay 1,000 yards behind the ark of the covenant as they approached the Jordan so they could see God stop up the river and allow them to cross on dry land. Like the people of Israel concentrating on the ark as a reminder of God's presence, ministers today must fix their attention on the Scriptures, Yeary said.
"I believe this book. I can't improve on it one iota. My job is to understand it and communicate it," he said.
"Love the Word of God," he exhorted his audience. "If you love it and live it, kids will follow you everywhere."
Youth ministers were urged by Yeary not only to consecrate and concentrate, but to celebrate as well. After the children of Israel had crossed the Jordan, Joshua commanded them to stack stones as a memorial to the miracle the Lord had performed.
Yeary reminded the youth workers they will face numerous challenges, including being regarded as second-class ministers.
"If you will shake it off, it'll make all the difference in the world," he said.
Phil Briggs, one of two Southwestern faculty members involved with the lab, said this year's event was "one of the best in a long time."
During the conference, participants attended seminars with topics that included preparing youth for college, recreation, using the Internet in ministry, evangelism in youth ministry, planning youth camps, and music in youth ministry.
Briggs, along with Rosemary Hoover, led a seminar on helping parents understand and parent "millennial kids."
Briggs and Hoover conducted a profile on millennial youth, defined as those who will graduate in 2001. The seminar's goal, he said, was to answer the question: "How do we as youth ministers become parent educators?"
Compared to Generation X, Briggs said, millennial kids are more idealistic and altruistic. "There's been a shift where these kids are much more conscious of helping other people," he said.
The conference ended with a roast for Briggs, who is leaving the youth lab to serve in the seminary's department of collegiate ministries. His work with the lab, he said, has "been a time of building relationships and working with students beyond the classroom. It's been a very pleasant experience, and I know it's in good hands with Dr. (Wesley) Black."
Next year's Youth Lab, the 32nd annual gathering, is scheduled for April 7-9.