Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity – 1 Timothy 4:12
If you have had any involvement in children and youth ministry, have been a young person in church, or have had the opportunity to talk to young people and needed a verse of encouragement, chances are you have definitely come across 1.Timothy 4:12 at one time or another!
And for good reason. The verse, and chapter for that matter, is an inspiring call for young man Timothy to live and lead in faith, without paying any attention to his age and perceived lack of ability. In this instance, age is to be seen literally as just a number.
Furthermore, Timothy is challenged and encouraged (the two go together) to set an example to the believers. Not just young believers, all believers. These are powerful words, which with God’s spirit breathed into them, have the potential to shape and form a young persons sense of identity and belonging.
Personally, I recall a time when the late great Rev. Andre Le Roux gave me the opportunity to share the message in our 10am service - I was 16 years of age. Without any formal training, lacking a theological degree, and without wrinkles to go with each year in the mission field, he gave me a chance to speak to our congregation, believing God has no interest in age, but only in faithful servants. That day, 1 Timothy 4.12 became a very tangible verse in my journey, and one I am reminded of constantly, even as a 24 year old all these years later.
I believe this verse is a biblical framework for ministry to young people, and one which has more relevance to us today as Methodists than ever before. The reason I say this is because we are one of two people in the story – Timothy or Paul. As I mentioned at the top, we often use this verse as an encouragement to our young people – encouraging them to be a young Timothy in their contexts. How often though do we in turn look to presbyters, parents and leaders and remind them to be Paul?
You see, Paul is the key component in this story. Paul encourages and edifies Timothy. Paul gives him freedom to be his own leader and Paul most importantly chooses not to look at the age of his younger brother, but instead honour him for the very skills and qualities that God has placed in his hands.
For every Timothy in your context, every young leader and potential leader – May there also be a Paul to speak life over and encourage in all situations. My hope is that our church will continue to do everything necessary to nurture and empower our young people, from every room of our Methodist House. This is our mission, and our calling, in Jesus name. Amen.