Tom Greene, director of the Assemblies of Gods
National Youth Ministries, travels across the United States partnering
with local churches, youth ministers and young people to share the gospel
with todays generation. He spoke recently with Scott Harrup, associate
EVANGEL: How would you describe the spiritual
climate among todays youth?
Among those who have made their commitment to Christ, I have honestly
never seen young people more committed. They are so active with their
Christianity. Theyre not ashamed for their friends to know that
theyre Pentecostal believers. Theyre not afraid to gather
around flagpoles at 7 in the morning, give the Book of Hope to their
friends or bow their heads in prayer in a cafeteria.
Outside the church, this generation is hungry for
a spiritual relationship. But society tells them such a relationship
is only as real as they want it to be and can be achieved in different
ways. One of my concerns is the broader focus today on the religions
of the world. Society tells young people that theyre the ones
who create truth. Theyre trying to find truth, and its the
churchs responsibility to help them discover the reality of Christ
while theyre spiritually hungry.
EVANGEL: What are some temptations vying for
the souls of teens?
GREENE: There are the obvious things young
people have always faced the temptations of drugs, drinking,
the music culture and sex before marriage. But young people today face
these temptations in a greater way because of the increased opportunities
to satisfy these desires. Sin is so accessible, whether it be through
the Internet or the multiplicity of cable television stations available
24 hours a day. Many kids have this right in their rooms. While there
are parental controls that can be put in place, kids become more interested
in what is available beyond those controls.
EVANGEL: What priorities need to be established
in reaching young people with the gospel?
GREENE: We must be more aggressive in going
where young people are. Families in America once found their way to
a local church, if not on a weekly basis then at least on Easter or
Christmas. Few today feel an obligation to go to Gods house. As
a result, many teenagers never are given an opportunity to accept Christ.
Thats why its so very important that we see the campus as
our mission field like never before.
EVANGEL: What misconceptions hinder understanding
between adults and young people?
GREENE: We as adults greatly underestimate
the role we can have in young lives in dealing with the issues just
discussed. We have this misconception that young people dont want
to relate to adults. But everything about teenagers is geared toward
one thing finding love and acceptance. Ive been involved
in youth ministry for 26 years. Ive never seen a generation more
hungry for adults to be mothers and fathers to them. We cant replace
their parents, but these young people are craving attention from someone
who is older who will take the time to care about them. Even the most
rebellious young people, Im convinced, act the way they do in
an attempt to get attention. In the end, its a bigger priority
that adults care about young people than that they completely understand
EVANGEL: What can believers and congregations
do to nurture young people?
GREENE: Young people can no longer be viewed
as "the church of tomorrow." They are the church of today.
Unless they are prioritized today there will be no church of tomorrow.
Many churches are using the gifts and talents of their young people,
but others are neglecting this resource. Young people will reach out
in ministry far more readily than many adults if theyre just given
the opportunity. Young people who are encouraged to minister today become
the ministry-oriented adults of tomorrow. Speed the Light, for example,
creates this kind of process. It not only raises funds for missionaries
equipment, but it trains the hearts of young people to support missions
ministry for a lifetime.
EVANGEL: How is National Youth Ministries reaching
out to todays generation?
GREENE: Were training leaders and offering
resources to local churches and to districts to provide them the tools
they need. From our offices, we cant begin to personally disciple
more than 330,000 Assemblies of God youth or reach the millions of lost
students across this country. But we can provide resources to local
outreaches and multiply ourselves and minister as a national team. A
current outreach that really excites us is the Seven Project. These
school assemblies and evening rallies are all connected to Internet
resources, allowing us to take youth ministry to the next level.