Monthly youth leaders column
Most young people will appear to be unaffected by what is happening in the global financial crisis.
After all, they are not serious earners, and they don’t handle large investments and nor are most of them into high finance and the dealings of money markets.
But I vividly remember meeting a young man on a church youth weekend where I was speaking, whose father was a banker who had just gone bankrupt. He spoke to me about it and the thing he most feared was that his friends would discover the truth about his less than perfect family. Most of the other students had professional fathers and staked some of their credibility on their parents’ reputation. He was also concerned that his own spending power would be limited. Issues like this affect family life, so they affect young people. The spectre of unemployment looms over families at the moment — I have known of people who have been removed from a job at less than a day’s notice and had to come home and tell their families they won’t be going to work tomorrow.
Apart from obvious financial hardship, this changes the family dynamic — the major breadwinner is now at home and at times like this many find it hard to accept the flippant, ‘you’re in the Lord’s hands’, even though that statement is true. It’s a bit like asking a drowning man if the water is a little cold — he needs help and support at a difficult time. As this crisis bites deeper into our national life, I believe young people will need support. As youth ministers we are dealing with people who are part of families who may well be called upon to live in a more frugal style. And some may resent that.
Caring in a recession
I’m sure God has something to say to us through what is happening at the moment, but my concern is for young people whose families are in new territory. We are going to have to be carers of the flock and do some teaching on what we truly are as men and women made in God’s image. Maybe a chance to discuss openly in small groups some of the issues that arise from financial insecurity and possibly some one to one work on how to support an unemployed parent. I have recent evidence that some young people are excellent at this.
Take a look at some of the teaching in Samuel (2 Samuel 18) and in Chronicles (1 Chronicles 29) where we see some of David’s attitude to money and the use of it. He will not take the gift of a threshing floor — he insists on paying for it — and he is happy to give to the project of building the temple which he desperately wanted to build but was going to be built by his son. ‘Everything comes from you and we have given you only what comes from your hand’ (1 Chronicles 29.14).
Flexible enough to respond
On a more general note, we must be careful not to be so locked into our teaching programmes that we cannot respond to issues like this.
Of course our main business is to teach the Bible in consecutive and culturally sensitive ways but we must also be leaders who have an awareness of the issues in our world. Cultural shifts must never become our driving agenda, but that doesn’t mean we cannot respond to major national and international events. And it may just be possible that the young people we have in our groups will live in a very different world to the one we have lived in and they need to be prepared for this. We must never be glib about the financial plight of people but we must go on teaching the true nature of money stewardship. God has given us his resources for us to look after — acquisitiveness has to be wrong.
Seize the day
These major crises in our world give us opportunity to teach in a relevant way — let’s not regard them as a bit of a nuisance but grasp the opportunity they afford to us.