The Handshake – An intentional African

Upon entering the church yesterday morning, the steward at the door shook my hand. But the handshake was not the “normal” or “traditional” handshake, instead, he gave me an African handshake.

So what? Well, the guy was White and I am a Coloured. What makes that interesting is that the guy did not take it for granted that I subscribe to a “western” way of doing things, although he assumed that I shake hands the African way. My point is, it was good to experience that there was an intentionality in his actions. Whilst culturally, I do not shake hands that way, I also recognised that I am African and we have to begin doing things the African way and not attempt to replicate what is done according to the West. Whilst a handshake does not make you an African, but at that point, the white man was more of an African than I was (I’m sure that would be way too simplistic and naive for many people). In this beautiful country of ours, we have to be intentional about our actions and know that every small gesture matters.

While I do believe that God is sovereign and can be trusted with everything, I believe that God is an intentional God who has created humans also to be intentional. What would the implications be for our young people in South Africa?

I have to intentionally know that the colour of one’s skin does not make the person.

Whilst there may be lots of truth in that statement, in a place like South Africa, we have to talk through our history and work our way constructively and critically through racial matters. It is only once we are able to do that can the colour of our skin not matter. I am proudly Coloured, while being a Coloured does not make or unmake me as a person (I know that there are those who reject colourdeness politically), however, it is who I am. I can only be okay with me and others when I accept all of me, warts and all.

I have to live life intentionally.

Whilst one does not want to be a killjoy and plan everything in life and risk killing spontaneity, one has to be intentional about life. Intentionality in life does not necessarily imply that life should be boring, instead, an intentional life could be so much more fulfilling. As a Coloured guy, growing up could not always be intentional. I had to learn to survive and survival is usually instinctual and spontaneous, grabbing opportunities as they arise. There are too many young people that do not have the luxury to live their lives intentionally, and ultimately, we can only have ourselves as adults to blame for a generation that lives a knee-jerk reaction.

We should intentionally create our meanings in the midst of discovery.

I’m not always one for experience trumps all. As a matter of fact, I always argue that it is not necessary to experience everything in life as one merely has to look around at the many lives lived and know what the outcome of certain actions may be. But, in South Africa, we need to re-create meaning as citizens of this country. As adults, we need to create opportunities for our young people that will allow them to experience life that is different to what we have had. There are too many defensive adults standing in the way of our youth. We need to re-write our narrative, yet, being cognizant of our past. Like the saying goes, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”

The decisions I make as an adult today shapes the future my daughter has to face tomorrow.

When Youth Ministry Becomes Tradition…

What is the purpose for having a youth ministry in the church? Why do churches have youth ministry?

When the church ceases to place priority on reaching young people for Christ as opposed to making sure the youth ministry in the church exists and doesn’t fall flat, when having young people in the actual ministry, it ceases to become a ministry but a tradition. A tradition of maintaining numbers in a program that is listed on the church’s organogram.

When something becomes part of “what we’ve always done here at this church” as opposed to asking the question, “what is the purpose of this particular ministry or practice?” it makes a bold statement that we’d rather have something for the sake of having something. It makes answering the questions of “why” uncomfortable and wanting to avoid instead of answering, “is there a need for this?” Too often the means becomes the purpose, and youth ministry has taken this route, where it has become a purpose instead of a means to reach young people for Christ.

Now I would want to believe that there will always be a need for youth ministry, therefore we would always see the need for youth ministry and have it in our church as part of who it is and not of what it does.

Why churches should always have a youth ministry:

  1. The Bible says so
    • When Jesus said we are to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19), he wasn’t just referring to adults. Yes, children were not seen in the light as they are today, considering the patriarchal society of the Bible, but they are part of humanity that Jesus died for. When witnessing about Jesus Christ to the nations, we should include the youth.
  2. The world is young
  3. The youth is the church of now
    • As clichéd as it might be, we need to remind ourselves again and again that our youth is important now! Not tomorrow! Now! We need to put our resources, our time, our prayers, our support behind our youth. They are not an investment where we hoping for some good return in a few years. Youth matter and they matter now like the present church because they are the present church. By saying they’re the church of tomorrow is telling them that they do not matter right now, that their youth is frowned upon. This goes against the very verse that Paul told Timothy, “don’t let anyone look down on you because of you are young” (1 Tim 4:12).
  4. Economically – they are the influx of finance
    • While this may not sound very spiritual, but where the youth are the money is. If youth attend your church, you can almost be assured their parents will follow and so will their finances. When youth graduate, hopefully they will be following in the footsteps of Christ as personal saviour, but also that they would not leave the church. By not leaving the church, neither would their resources. If you looking for a sure way to cripple the church, then ignore the youth. Treat them as unimportant, as a minority and make the way wide open for them to leave at the end of their schooling years to seek purposes elsewhere.
  5. By ministering to youth, we shape society
    • If you want to know what our society will look like in the years to come, then don’t look at our current political leaders. While they may make policies today to govern tomorrow, they are not what will shape society. It is our youth that will shape society. Have a look at our history, it has always been our youth that has shaped South Africa. Have a look at our youth today to see what our society will look like tomorrow.

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So, why have youth ministry? You tell me…