I have such hope for the next generation of the church. Millenials, despite what anyone says, have a lot to offer. Like Sarah says, “[they] are capable, [they] are smart, and [they] are worthy of being strong and active in the church.”
Let me introduce you to one particular millennial girl with a great vision for the future and be encouraged.
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Chantelle: “Tell me a bit about yourself and what you do.”
Sarah: “I’m Sarah Smith, and I’ve lived in Texas my whole life. I’m 20 years old, the oldest of four kids, and I’m currently working on getting my Associate’s degree at Tarrant County College. I work as a Library Assistant at the Youth Services section of my library, and I LOVE my job. My plan is to get my Bachelor’s degree in English and my Master’s degree in Library Science, as I want to be a youth librarian.
I rarely drink fewer than five cups of coffee a day, I carry a book in my purse at all times, and I would pick Spotify over Netflix any day. My friends and family are extremely important to me, and I’m trying to spend as much time with them this summer as I can. I believe that Batman is the greatest superhero ever. I teach Bible class on Wednesday night at Smithfield church of Christ where I attend, and I work with Jayla Sparks as an Editor for Beyond the Foam, a series of articles on the website Come Fill Your Cup designed specifically for high school and college-aged women.”
Chantelle: “What are some things your parents (or others) have taught you that have helped you as you come to have your own faith?”
Sarah: “One of the things I remember my dad telling me was that you never know who is watching you. Obviously, God is always watching you, but sometimes it’s difficult to remember that in everyday life. My dad told me that you never know if a little kid is looking up to you or if an older person is observing you, and you can lose or earn a lot of influence just by how you act when you think no one is looking.
My mom taught me balance, as well. She always pointed out how God said not to go too far to the left OR to the right. As long as we follow what the Bible tells us, we don’t have to worry about straying in either direction, or about hedge laws set up by man, or about conforming to trendy teachings. When I remember these two things they told me, I feel like I can keep my head in situations on social media where everyone is flinging opinions and debating politics (often to no resolution, just increasing irritation).
Also, I know it seems sort of silly to mention a movie in this situation, but the Cinderella movie that came out a couple years ago has a quote in it that stuck with me deeply: “Have courage and be kind.” Kindness sometimes requires bravery, because kindness makes you vulnerable to being taken advantage of. But that’s ok, because you just need to turn the other cheek. So that quote definitely helped me a lot.”
Chantelle: “What tools have you found useful in developing your own faith?”
Sarah: “My mom homeschooled me and my siblings from preschool all the way through high school. We focused a lot on reading and books and research, so I’m used to looking up answers to questions I had, and reading for fun and personal growth. I have a big curiosity, so the tools I learned being homeschooled have really helped me in researching the history of the Bible and in my personal Bible study.
I love books, and the fact that God gave His plan for humanity to humanity in the form of a book excites me so much, because I know how to read books, and dissect them, and get as much from them as I can. I love the Bible too, because no matter how much I study it, I learn different things at different times just from the same passage. It’s beautiful, and the English major in me is fascinated by God’s word, just as my faith compels me to sort out my salvation with fear and trembling.
Also, my friends and family support me so much that I don’t know who I would be without them. They’re a sounding board, encouragement, and they also help me laugh at myself. I feel like I know some of the best people God ever made, so I’m glad that they’re in my life to help me get to Heaven.
Chantelle: “What is the greatest challenge you face as a young woman in today’s society?”
Sarah: “Being still and knowing that He is God. Just trying to type out the answers to these questions, I got distracted so many times by Facebook, Snapchat, Spotify, getting coffee, noticing how I needed to clean my room, and thinking about all the things I need to get done before I go to camp in a week. I have zero attention span, and I’m so busy, that I push God to the side, to the back burner, and that’s inexcusable.
My biggest challenge is definitely putting God first in an era where I’m eternally connected to the internet and using my phone.”
Chantelle: “If you could sit down for a coffee with a young woman reading this and encourage them in one area, what would you say to them?”
Sarah: “I would tell them what I wish I had heard when I was younger: You aren’t as awkward or annoying or weird as you worry that you are. People love you for who you are, and you don’t need to worry about changing yourself or acting out of character for attention. If you are just honest about who you are, and are true to yourself and kind to others, you will have more friendship than you thought possible.
Also, don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself and make mistakes, because everybody has short circuits in their brains sometimes. You’re not the only one who feels stupid sometimes, so just laugh it off and don’t let it worry you.”
Chantelle: “Sometimes young women feel like they can’t be of use in the Lord’s church. How would you encourage someone who felt this way to be more involved?”
Sarah: “Just because we don’t lead songs or give sermons does not mean we have a lesser role! As a young woman, I believe you can do so much good just in listening to people, and using your words to encourage. Older people tend to be lonely, or feeling ill, and they love it when you pay attention to them, as do little kids, because what they have to say is important, even if it’s just about Thomas the Tank Engine or their dog. Including other people in your age group, or those just outside of it, because no one should be excluded. Don’t let people speak badly about other people.
So much of the New Testament is about how Christians treat other Christians, and if more young women were focused on other people in the congregation besides the youth group, I believe the church would be much stronger. 1 Timothy 4:12 says to not let anyone despise your youth, and I believe that no one can despise your youth if they know you well. So, I would say, young women can be greatly involved in building the bonds of the church, which is a monumental task.
Chantelle: “I’m sure you are busy and with study and other things. How do you find the time to work on your own spiritual growth and development?”
Sarah: “It is SO hard. But it can be done. Sometimes I have to not hang out with friends, other times my family will be watching movies and I have to leave the room to go study on my own. Most of the time I just stay up into the wee hours of the night trying to fight sleep in order to study. But any amount of time spent in the Bible reaps its rewards – what you put in, you will get out of it. If you sacrifice anything at all to spend time in God’s word, you will get so much out of your study, and it’s a great exercise in self-discipline.”
Chantelle: “What is your favourite scripture and why?”
Sarah: “1 Corinthians 13, hands down. It gives a definition of love that no other book, no other piece of literature, can even rival. Love isn’t comfortable, and yet it’s the most comfortable thing there is; it’s sacrificial, but you also gain so much from it. Agape love is the most beautiful, difficult, vulnerable type of love there is, and it’s something that I will spend my whole entire life trying to perfect for the people in my life.”
Chantelle: “What can those who are older do to encourage the younger to be more faithful or active? What do you feel is lacking?”
Sarah: I absolutely hate it when older people post things on Facebook about my generation being bad or lazy or selfish. Every generation has its flaws, and I find it hypocritical when they criticize the generation they raised. There is a lot of harshness online over politics and things, which only divides and causes negative emotions. It would be so encouraging if older people would take more of an interest in getting to understand people my age, because I think we’re pretty cool and unique.
Also, if young people were given deeper, more mature classes, I think they would absolutely thrive. If they’re in advanced classes in high school, or getting scholarships for college, then I believe that they can definitely handle deep Bible class material. Let them get to see the mechanics of God’s love, the minutiae and how He worked in the background of history, along with the generalized, big picture we usually get. Get them more involved in the hard work of the congregation, rather than only planning “youth events”. We don’t need to always be entertained, because we’re not toddlers. We are capable, we are smart, and we are worthy of being strong and active in the church, right alongside the adults.
Chantelle: “What is your dream for the next generation of the church? What can we do to be a part of positive change?”
Sarah: “I believe that my generation is uniquely poised to change the course of the church for the better. I know that the techniques the church has used in the past for evangelism don’t work the same today, but that doesn’t mean the church is in danger of dying off, or the world is particularly worse – we just need to find new techniques to reach the lost.
So, my dream for the church is that we learn how to reach the lost in a gentle, personal way and that we reflect the kindness and love of Christ. Because, in the end, what draws people to salvation is not necessarily the people, but Christ’s perfect love for each individual person. I would also like to see the church help influence the world more – I feel like sometimes we’re so focused on potlucks and devotionals and such that we forget to reach out to the outside world.”
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Past interviews with young women:
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