I just wanna be somebody to someone, oh
I wanna be somebody to someone, oh
I never had nobody and no road home
I wanna be somebody to someone
Banners (aka English musician Michael Nelson) might have hit on the anthem for our time in his song Someone to You. We crave connection, we crave meaning and significance for our lives and nowhere is this more acutely felt than in the teenage years.
Two years of COVID lockdowns have highlighted that we are wired for relationships. Created in the image of our relational God who is Father, Son and Spirit, we are purposefully and wonderfully intended for relationships with Him and with each other.
The enforced social isolations of 2020 and 2021 in the face of a rampant and deadly virus have exacted a heavy toll on our society. Our politicians and educators are dreadfully concerned about a growing mental health crisis that is engulfing our young people – and adults as well.
It can feel like we’re trying to turn back the tide with a teaspoon. But our God is bigger than the tide. The gospel we preach is more powerful than the largest waves. Our Saviour is able to calm the biggest storms and bring peace that is real and deep and eternal.
From my vantage point at Youthworks, I’m seeing the gospel transform young lives and place whole churches on a mission and ministry footing – even as they emerge from lockdown. At my own church I’ve seen the Friday night youth group grow from about 50 school kids BC (Before COVID) to around 100.
I’ve seen my youngest daughter band together with some of her mates and invite other mates to church, and two (perhaps three) of them have put their trust in Christ. Recently one of them came to our place for a quick Friday pre-youth group dinner and she spent the meal peppering me with questions about how Jesus’ historical death could pay the price for her present-day sins. What a great way to cross the Friday finish line!
And this gospel growth isn’t just happening among “the young ‘uns”. Middle-aged blokes have been invited by our pastor to have an oversight/leadership role in weekly young adult Bible study groups. And their eyes light up when we talk about our experiences of walking alongside our brothers and sisters who are the same age as our own children – and younger.
These stories are being repeated in churches across the Diocese as churches lay hold of the church leadership/growth/pastoral/mission strategy Paul gave to Timothy in Ephesus: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men and women who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2).
Here we see four generations of believers: Paul, Timothy, “reliable men and women” and “others”, commanded to be intentionally investing in the spiritual formation of the next generation. Where local churches commit to implementing this biblical mandate, we see those churches under God begin to flourish as each generation ministers to every other generation. As the whole church ministers to the whole church.
Our young people want to matter to someone. In the words of Banners, they “wanna be somebody to someone” and they want a “road home”. As we who are older take an interest in those who are younger – learning their names as we see them around church, asking them about their week, their interests, their faith, their highs and their lows – we will have opportunities to teach them that they do indeed matter.
They matter to you and, more crucially, they matter to Him. To Him who showed us the full extent of his love (John 13:1f) by giving himself over to death so that we can know we are justified before God, saved from the eternal consequences of all our sins and brought into a relationship with God that will last forever (Romans 5:8-11).
How good is it to know that your mistakes can be wiped clean (Romans 8:1)! How good is it to know that someone big and strong and kind and loving has prepared the road home for you (John 14:6, Philippians 3:20)!
Where people have laid hold of these gospel truths, local saints (people just like you) are receiving joy upon joy as they forge connections with younger people. Seniors encouraging young parents to hang in there through the chaos of raising toddlers, adults meeting regularly with teens around God’s word, reliable men and women seizing relational opportunities to teach others the gospel and its life-giving promises.
Don’t let another Sunday go by without reaching out to someone in your church to let them know, in your own words, that they are indeed somebody to Someone. Somebody to the One who loved them with a love that is stronger than death, more potent than any booster jab and brings significance, meaning and purpose to all of life (NB. Youthworks ministry support advisors are available to assist those who lead your church’s ministries to children and youth).
The Rev Canon Craig Roberts is CEO of Youthworks.