We’ve all heard about “oxymoron’s”, right? It’s a figure of speech where contradictory terms appear together. Here are some illustrations from http://www.oxymoronlist.com/:
- Accurate estimate
- Act naturally
- Adult children
- All alone
- Big baby
- Calm winds
- Casual dress
- Sanitary landfill
- Airline food
Older adults need the life and energy of youth – and young people need the wisdom and maturity of older adults. The church was designed by God to be inter-generational and the generations need each other.
However, there are concrete and definite strengths for having a strong and effective church youth ministry. (I present some of those strengths in my book. See Chapter 7. Here is my list of youth ministry strengths that I posted in an earlier blog. http://www.melwalker.org/2014/01/13-things-big-church-must-learn-from.html.) It’s not time to overreact and eliminate the many positive aspects of youth ministry in favor of all ages meeting together for one more lecture in the church auditorium. The key is balance. I am convinced that today’s churches can and should balance their programming and methods so that peer ministry can exist and thrive alongside of inter-generational ministry.
Dr. Chap Clark, well-known youth ministry professor, writer, and researcher, has made the assertion that today’s teenagers need strong relationships with 5 significant adults (other than their parents) if they are going to continue involvement in church following their youth ministry years. (Note for more information about Chap’s 5 to 1 ratio see http://billygraham.org/decision-magazine/september-2004/in-spite-of-how-they-act/, http://www.cpyu.org/2013/08/13/5-adults-to-1-kid-but-who-are-the-5/, http://fulleryouthinstitute.org/articles/moving-away-from-the-kid-table, and http://theparentcue.org/why-your-kids-need-five-other-adults-in-their-lives/.)
Our young people need Godly adults to be actively involved in their lives. I believe that it is essential for the spiritual development of youth that older, Godly adults take the initiative to build growing relationships with them.
How to involve adults into the life of your church’s teenagers & young adults?
How can churches be proactive and intentionally build 5 significant, Godly adults into the lives of the next generation? Here are some suggestions:
1. Hire a qualified, trained, and experienced pastor to shepherd your church’s youth.
I admit it, I am a fan of youth pastors. I’ve spent the majority of my life involved in local church youth ministry, so I believe in the role of youth pastors. Plus, as a dad, I can’t tell you how thankful I am for the ministry the youth pastors in the churches we attended had in the lives of my kids. According to my friend Wayne Morgan with the National Network of Youth Ministry, the majority of young adults who stay in church after they graduate from high school had a youth pastor who invested in their life.
Let me take a moment to explain the adjectives I used in this sub-point:
- Qualified: Pastors, even young youth pastors, must meet the Biblical qualifications that are found in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.
- Trained: Youth pastors should be trained before they begin. They need to know what they are talking about and they to know what they are doing. And, are they called of God to do this?
- Experience: As a parent I don’t want someone who we pay to minister to kids that has never done this before. If someone is really called to be a youth pastor they will have already had experience in working with teenagers. It’s in their blood.
2. Recruit a team of Godly, caring adults to serve as lay youth workers in your church.
With or without a paid youth pastor, your church needs a team of Godly and caring adults to work with teenagers. Please notice the plurality of my terms. I believe in team ministry - different models who can reach and minister different teens. The main responsibility of any lay youth worker must be to build relationships with teens. That really is the key. Opportunities to teach and disciple will grow out of positive relationships.
3. Recruit and train competent adults to minister as small group leaders in your youth group.
Your small group leaders are another level of adult interaction with students. Be sure to find adults who have the ability to guide discussions around the Scriptures and who can think on their feet in case the teens ask difficult questions. I think it’s also wise to look for small group leaders who are able and willing to interact with the students in occasions outside of small group. (Some churches are organizing their entire small group ministry around inter-generational connections; and of course, this would add an interesting dynamic to this type of ministry structure.)
4. Utilize church leaders, parents of teenagers, and other significant adults to serve your youth group.
Another way to build adults into the lives of the young people in your church is to use significant adults in various ways within the fabric of your existing youth ministry. Here are some practical ideas to consider:
- Ask some parents of teenagers or other adults to accompany your group on youth events or trips.
- Ask church leaders to speak, teach, or otherwise participate in youth group meetings.
- Ask the lead pastor or other pastoral staff members to teach on a specific topic in youth group.
- Ask select, Godly adults who have unique life experiences to minister to students who are facing some of the same experiences.
- Give older, Godly adults the opportunity to share their story (or their testimony) with teenagers.
5. Ask key parents of teenagers to build healthy, growing relationships with their kids’ friends.
Parents of kids in your church can be the ideal people to minister to their kids’ friends – especially if you have young people involved in your ministry who are from dysfunctional home situations. When our own children were teenagers we often encouraged them to invite their friends over to our house. This provided a safe atmosphere for our kids and gave us the opportunity to get to know their friends. It might be a good idea to be intentional about making this kind of thing happen with Godly parents of teens in your church.
6. Motivate your church’s senior citizens to pray specifically and intentionally for young people – by name!
I am excited about a growing trend around the country to intentionally involve senior citizens in specific ways with teenagers and young adults. This absolutely must start with prayer. Do whatever you can to motivate your church’s oldest adults to pray specifically, by name for the young people. This simple practice will put a growing burden on their hearts for the students - and honestly, it has the potential to revolutionize your church and shatter its’ generation gap!
Friends, I am convinced that by implementing some of the ideas listed above your church can create that 5 adults to 1 student ratio that is so essential to help our young people grow up and go on for God. Blessings.