The desk from where I type these blogs is often covered with stacks of books. I cull through them, making notes in the margins, highlighting pithy quotes, while jotting ideas on scraps of paper like ingredients in a recipe.As I delve into encyclopedias, biographies, commentaries and the like, I am seldom so gripped by youth leadership training curriculum as I was by Francis E. Clark’s book, Christ and the Young People. And I’m pleased to hear that Smooth Stone Publishing will soon be re-publishing this book with edits and resources for our modern audience.
Considering the volumes of youth ministry books, ranging from “small group strategies” to “the first two years of ministry,” Clark’s 91-page book published in 1924, is a radical look at the unique appeal Christ holds among young people. While it is a distinction of Christ that He would call to himself a people of all classifications and demographics, Clark argues that, “He makes a special and peculiar appeal to young people.” The source of my fascination with Clark is based on the profundity of his main assertion: Christ the King, in all of His glory and might, mercy and grace, possesses a character so tolerable to the pallets of young people of every generation and culture that it should be expected young people would be naturally drawn to Him. As Clark puts it,
As inevitable is it that the young should be attracted to Christ as that the magnet should draw the iron, as that the needle should point to the pole.
In writing this youth leadership training book, Clark’s aim was to interpret Jesus Christ to young people, or to interpret them to themselves, and to examine some of the qualities of Christ to which they are so attracted. Clark outlines 12 of Christ’s attributes: His naturalness, approachability, modesty, courage, considerateness, unconventionality, ready wit, good cheer, tactfulness, uncomplaining fortitude, steadfastness, and high idealism. Devoting a chapter to each, Clark paints a picture of a tangible and loving savior who “touches the deepest springs” of the nature of young people.
As I plow through the stacks of books on my desk, many of them well worth the time invested, I have discovered a winning motif on the pages of Christ and the Young People, and that is Clark’s notion that one should expect big things from God in the lives of young people. Readers will discover a play-by-play appeal to the reader to understand how tangible and relevant is Jesus Christ to young people.
In many quarters conversion is too often looked upon as a sporadic, if not spasmodic, departure from the ordinary state of affairs. If a revivalist comes to town, if a Billy Sunday moves a city to its depths, young people are expected to flock to the front and profess conversion.
On the other hand, I believe that parents, Sunday-school teachers, pastors, should expect those for whom they are responsible to become Christ’s willing and avowed followers before they reach the legal age of manhood. It should be considered a strange, abnormal, almost an inexplicable, thing if a boy or girl should grow up in our Christian families, in our Sunday-schools, within sound of our church bells, and not become a Christian. This does not do away with the idea of conversion, or substitute confirmation for regeneration; but it does show that there is a harvest-time in the spiritual realm, and that harvest-time is not at the end of the season, when the grain is matured, and, like a shock of corn fully ripe, man is waiting to be gathered to his fathers, but that it is nearer the other end of life, when the generous, alert young soul is eager to ask the question, “Lord what wilt thou have me to do?” and, when he hears the Master speak, to say, “Here, Lord, am I; send me.” – Francis E. Clark, Christ and the Young People.
Patrick Crossland is a guest blogger from the Center for International Youth Ministry