Would you trust a teenager with ministry? It seems likes a wild idea. Teenagers are young, inexperienced, and generally capricious. But while parents might think twice about loaning them the car, God has always treated teenagers as significant people; even leaders, who can be used to minister in great ways.
The Bible is full of examples of God calling teenagers to serve Him. Many of those who obeyed God’s calling were used by God to change the course of history. Jeremiah was probably only seventeen years old when God called him. Perhaps little Jerry had been listening to what the adults were saying about his age because he responded in chapter 1 verses 4-9 with excuses for why he wasn’t ready.
In Jeremiah’s mind he was still just a kid with no abilities. But God assured Jeremiah that his age and his supposed lack of maturity were not going to be a detriment to his ministry.
Even the Lord’s mother was a teenager when God called her. Mary was probably about 13 years old when Gabriel the archangel came to her with some pretty earth shattering news. Understandably, Mary was fearful but the angel told her “do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.” Mary was just an ordinary, young girl yet God has chosen her! Notice the obedient attitude of this teenage girl: “I am the Lord’s servant.”
We could rewind back to the Old Testament again to look at another teenager that God used. The historian Josephus estimates that Samuel was just 12 years old when God spoke to him. It was at nighttime and Samuel was trying to sleep. God spoke to Samuel three times before Samuel recognized who it was that was talking. When Samuel finally caught on, his response was perfect:
We could go on and on with examples of teenagers in the Bible that God used. The point is this: God uses young people. He used young people in the Bible days and he still uses young people today. John Calvin was a pastor at the ager of 17. George Whitefield was preaching to great crowds by the time he was 21. Charles Spurgeon was a famous preacher when he was only 16 and became the pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London at 20.
So here’s a question for you: Which is the most frustrating time in your life? Infancy? Adolescence? Or Mature adulthood? While there’s no question that being an adult presents unique challenges I believe that being a teen is the most frustrating time in life. It is that time when you are not old enough to “be on your own” and yet there is a longing to feel independent. The Scripture represents “youth” as being both danger and a challenge.
I believe that today’s church focuses more on the “danger” of being a youth than on the “challenge.” While it’s true that there are many dangers that face our teenagers (Genesis 8:21; II Timothy 2:22) there is also some great value to being a teen that needs to be challenged by adults. Teenagers are full of energy and they are daring visionaries. It’s time we stopped looking at the teens in the church as “potential” vessels for ministry and see them as ministers right now. Solomon, who wasted much of his life in folly, looked back at his youth and advised teens this way:
Dear adult in the church: I understand your concern with teenagers. They are impetuous and sometimes a bit silly, but can I plead with you not to overlook them. They are tremendous partners in ministry. To overlook them would be antithetical to God’s teachings. The Bible is replete with examples of God using them.
Teens can accomplish magnificent things for the Lord. Maybe it’s time we stopped overlooking them.