Jenny was ready. She was in the zone, running with her hand held out behind her. Sarah was coming up behind her. You could see the two of them—one poised to receive the baton the other running like the wind to pass it on. Then there was a collective grasp from the crowd. Sarah did not pass on the baton.
The relay race is its own animal. It’s more than being able to run fast and well. There is that moment between runners when everything comes down to the pass. Now, there are two critical elements to the pass. The incoming runner has the responsibility to put it into the out held hand of the outgoing runner. The second thing is that the pass has to be in the exchange zone.
If the team is set on winning, the incoming runner cannot hold back the baton and fumble passing it on. With eyes set on the outgoing runner, the incoming runner must pass the baton in the exchange zone. Holding back your baton, therefore, is a sure way to work against the team’s best interest and increase the chances of failure.
What are you doing with the baton of faith that God has given you? Are you passing it on or are you holding it back? Yours is the responsibility for passing on the faith. This requires three things of you:
1. You have to be in the zone
Just as the runner has a specified exchange zone within which to pass on the baton, so do you. Youth ministry operates in an optimum time. Teenagers are ready to deal with abstract concepts and ideas. They can plan. In addition, they are forming habits, many of which will be sustained throughout life.
By now, you should have realized that many of the youth who drop out of the faith after high school do not return. This suggests another reason to reach them and pass on the baton in the zone.
The zone is the years in a young person’s life when they are eligible to be in your youth ministry. These are the teen years, and sometimes the pre-teen years. This is the time when they are open to learn about God. This is the time when they have their many questions and are seeking answers as they try to makes sense of the world in the light of their Christian faith and vice versa.
2. Keep Your Eyes on the Youth
If you’re going to pass on the baton, you have to know where the youth is. You have to know where the open hand in into which you are going to place the baton. This open hand symbolizes the quest that was mentioned earlier. You have to know where they stand in relation to the faith.
Do the young people in your church believe? Have they made a commitment to God in Jesus Christ? Are they seeking to live as followers of Christ? In addition, where do they struggle and stumble? What doubts do they have? What are their questions about the faith? Know the doubts, know the questions so that you can place the baton squarely in their hands.
3. Accept that passing on the baton is your responsibility
Even though the young person has their hand outstretched, it is your responsibility to pass on the baton of faith. It is not theirs. It is important that you grasp this. It will make the difference in how you approach youth ministyr.
When you get that the responsibility lies with you to pass on the faith, you will spend less time wondering whey they don’t show up. You will stop expending energy wondering why they don’t engage. Instead, you will give more time and energy to figuring out just how you can match your rhythm and speed to theirs. You will spend more time and energy figuring out where their hand is and how you can get the baton into it with precision.
What are you doing with the baton? Are you passing it on or are you holding it back? What can you do to ensure that you pass the baton on in the exchange zone?