“In my day or theirs?”
Generally, we remember King Hezekiah as one of the few good kings to rule the people of Judah Many of us have heard sermons about how he wholeheartedly trusted God during the days of the great an terrifying Assyrian invasion, courageously destroyed the idols his people had begun to worship, and fervently prayed for his own healing when he received news from the Isaiah the Prophet that he was terminally ill.
The writer of the book of Kings, however, mentions one detail of Hezekiah’s life that leaves a chilling mark upon his legacy. During his final years, Isaiah told Hezekiah that within a generation, the people of Judah—including some of Hezekiah’s own sons!—would be carried away into exile in Babylon. Shockingly, Hezekiah was pleased with the prophesy, saying, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?” (2 Kings 20:19) Within a generation, the kingdom was lost.
At Grace, we unapologetically reject Hezekiah’s lax attitude toward the next generation. Instead, we aim to embrace the opposite, surrendering our own time and resources so that there might be greater peace and security in their days!
Parents instinctively understand this way of life. Several years ago, one of our campus pastors and his wife were several months away from giving birth to their first child. As the father began working on what their family budget might look like once they had the baby, he asked his brother-in-law (who had several children of his own) how much a child costs. The answer was familiar to anyone who has tried faithfully to raise a child: “Everything you have.”
Reaching the next generation is costly. And, at times, it pulls us outside our comfort. But our children are not only a gift from God but also an incredibly responsibility from Him. Helping them walk in the ways of the Lord lies at the very heart of Jesus’ command to make disciples. And the number of empty church buildings and octogenarian congregations further remind us that reaching the next generation is not optional.
So, what does “reaching the next generation” mean to us?
We are committed to fun, engaging, and biblically-rich communities of discipleship. Students and kids need the Bible. And they need healthy relationships. Most of our American culture today is incredibly powerful and well-tuned to lead our kids away from Jesus and toward sensuality, universalism, and consumerism. But rather than settle for mere “relevance,” we believe the answer is found in helping them wisely relate the content of Scripture within their context. After all, the early church in Corinth faced a hyper-sexualized society. The Ephesian believers had to negotiate their faith among a wide range of contrary religions. And the people of Israel constantly struggled against the pitfalls of materialism. We aim to create groups of leaders and peers who can help each other apply the Scripture right where they are living. Kidzlife is a prime example; each week, children fifth-grade and younger memorize a passage of Scripture, hear teaching on that same passage, and process how to apply it in their groups led by our amazing adult volunteers.
We are committed to empowering our students and kids to lead.
There are a number of scholars who believe Jesus’ twelve disciples were younger than 18 years old when he called them. (This certainly would explain some of their decidedly “adolescent” conversations!) In like manner, we are convinced that our students and kids have enormous capacity to lead both in the church and their schools. For this reason, we walk with our high schoolers as they lead “LUG groups” of middle schoolers every Wednesday night during the school year. Our middle schoolers have started clubs on the campuses of their schools where they teach, lead worship, and share their stories with their classmates. Even our kids are looked at as leaders within the Good News Clubs that meet after school in elementary schools throughout Gwinnett.
We are committed to blessing local schools.
One of the primary reasons Grace Snellville moved to its current location on Dogwood Rd. in 2000 was that the plot of land was walking distance from Brookwood High School and within a six-mile radius of eight massive high schools. The Gospel of John tells us that Jesus mission was incarnational: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (1:14). In the same way, we wholeheartedly encourage the families at Grace to be present and “dwell among” the public, private, and home school communities in our neighborhood as those aiming to bring light and blessing to the administrators, teachers, and students there.
Our decisions about budgeting, building, and hiring hinge on how best to engage the next generation.
Sometimes, we hear questions like, “Why are the chairs in the auditorium uncomfortable?” or “Why does our worship music sound like this?” or “Why aren’t there more spaces for adult classes?” The answer to each is that we have a distinct bias to the next generation. Our chairs can be easily struck so that our auditorium can be used for the middle schoolers coming to LUG. Our worship style will, as much as possible, seek to engage the next generation. Even our classroom spaces at Grace are scheduled with children and student ministry in mind. With that said, our adults at Grace are amazing. Literally hundreds of adult volunteers have embraced this vision to reach the next generation—in fact, one of the best ways to get connected at Grace is by volunteering. Whether you have lots of history with God or nearly none, we can find a place for you to serve once you have passed a simple background check.
For years, Psalm 78:4-6 has been a rallying cry for our community:
4 We will not hide these truths from our children but will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the LORD. We will tell of his power and the mighty miracles he did. 5 For he issued his decree to Jacob; he gave his law to Israel. He commanded our ancestors to teach them to their children, 6 so the next generation might know them–even the children not yet born–that they in turn might teach their children.
As ever, at Grace, we remain deeply committed not to comfort in our own day but so that the next generation might know—even those not yet born!