The church is full of opportunities for service. One exciting opportunity is the potential of engaging and encouraging the youth in our local churches to be involved in ministry. Despite Paul’s exhortation in 1 Timothy 4:12 to “not let anyone despise your youth”, the local church has often relegated the teens and young adults to the youth groups and have ignored the potential they have to be effective servants of the Lord. The youth often get a bad rap because their “music is too loud”, their “clothes are too casual’, they “say inappropriate things sometimes”, they “lack initiative and drive for the Lord” and on it goes.
Guidance versus Criticism
What I have found in general when working with youth is that they have many struggles and pressures on them and are looking for guidance. Not all youth are stubborn and rebellious. Often they just need someone they can look up to and point them in the right direction. One reason youth feel ignored is that local churches don’t make the effort to give them something to do. Sure they will make mistakes, and yes, they sometimes go over the top. But those are perfect opportunities to gently guide and direct them so they can grow and learn. The local church is for all believers of every age. If your local church does not have an active ministry or role for each young believer, then I would ask you to consider why not and how you can make them a part of the work.
Here are a few tips to getting your youth involved.
1. Remember their place in the body. Every believer has a spiritual gift they are given to use within the church. That includes even the youngest. The local church is where that gift is to be exercised and developed. If the adults do not encourage the young people to use the gifts they have been given then how are they to develop them? The Lord didn’t just equip the adults for service but every saint in the family of God.
2. Plan something they will like to do. Young people today love specific things. They love music, video, texting. Many of them play instruments and love to write or draw. Make them a part of your music ministry or get their creative juices flowing by writing skits they can present. Take the things from their lives and incorporate them into the meetings of the church.
3. Give them opportunities to serve. There are so many ways the youth can get involved in serving. Have them bake together then visit the elderly or shut ins. Take them with you to visit those who are sick. Help out neighbours around your church by having the youth cut their grass and rake up leaves. These types of ministries can have a huge impact on the life of the youth and train them to serve others as adults.
4. Mix old and young. The elderly and experienced believers in our churches have a vast wealth of knowledge to share with the youth. Be creative and think of ways they can be engaged with each other. When I was in grade 7, our junior youth group prepared and served a dinner for the seniors at our chapel. Afterwards we performed a talent show for them. To this day it is one of the things I remember the most about those years. That night has stuck with me all these years.
5. Be prepared to disciple. As mentioned before the youth will make mistakes. It’s not a maybe – it’s a definite! Instead of getting upset and dropping the ministry, sit down with those involved and lovingly guide them in the right way. I am so thankful for the men and women who came along side of me when I made mistakes and in grace made a huge impact on my life. They made an impact because they cared about me. They didn’t enjoy saying what had to be said. I don’t think they will ever really know how much of an influence they had on me for good.
6. Don’t let personal taste get in the way. We all have our preferences with music, clothes, hobbies and activities. It has always been a struggle for older ones to accept the preferences of youth. People and churches that have been able to put those aside and find common ground to work on have seen tremendous growth. Don’t see it as a compromise because it’s not. It’s what Paul refers to as “striving together.” Even worse is to make a preference into a doctrine and hold it over the heads of the youth (or anyone for that matter).
7. Don’t make excuses. I have heard this comment all too often. I don’t understand the young people and it’s not my gift. There is NO spiritual gift of working with youth. We are commanded to love and serve one another and that is not restricted by age. Every one of us should be active in helping and nurturing our young people.
Prayerfully consider how you can be more involved in the lives of the youth and how you can incorporate them into the ministry of the local church. If you have exciting and successful ways in your local church of engaging the young people, please post a comment below. We would love to hear from you.