“Youth are our future.” You probably have heard this saying before, and it is how most societies operate. We have always trained up youth to prepare them for adulthood and its choices. However, only looking to the future and working to make sure they are productive adults can miss the opportunity to reach youth in the now.
The reality is each individual is here and now. Yes, we need to prepare our youth for the future, but we cannot ignore the present needs of their hearts. The quality of their lives, their relationship with Jesus, their struggles are all very real and present issues. They already are leading, influencing, and making choices that shape their lives. What are we doing about the now?
During D.L. Moody’s time, many youth were often forced into adulthood much faster because of the need to support their families. Their development was primarily to the goal of contributing to a trade for income.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with training up youth to work well, D.L. Moody set a standard of still caring for the youth as they were. With the street kids, he saw their pain, the missing role models, the lack of access to an education that could provide hope. He stepped in and starting meeting these needs. He was highly invested in bringing children to Sunday schools and the Chicago YMCA.
Later in life with the start of the Northfield schools, Moody continued this investment, providing opportunities for those often overlooked. He spoke value into many lives. As Northfield grew, Moody’s youth conferences continued to draw scores of young people looking to gain from his wisdom. You will find countless stories about Moody’s interaction with students such as taking time to go sledding, carriage rides, and even a prank or two.
By reaching out to youth, helping them think through their tough issues and providing solutions to the struggles they were facing in the present, Moody transformed lives. The impact that arose from Northfield is significant- the Student Volunteer Movement and many other renown scholars and missionaries are a few who can trace their roots to Moody’s legacy of investing in youth.
Meeting the needs of young people as they are is an incredible gift. Yes, there should always be a look to the future as well, but we should not get too caught up in that. Our youth need us now. We should seize the opportunity to hear what is burdening their hearts, be voices of advice to further their calling, and help meet Jesus in a real way. Let’s dive in now.