5 THINGS YOU CAN DO TO HELP MAKE YOUTH MINISTRY A PRIORITY IN YOUR CHURCH
A few days after a recent youth ministry seminar I received a revealing phone call. The caller, a local church youth worker, made this evaluation of the church she attended, “The church leaders just don’t see youth ministry as very important.”
Perhaps every youth worker feels that way from time-to-time. We all wish the church had a greater vision for what youth ministry can do. However, I absolutely believe there are simple things every youth worker can do to help the church see the big picture of what a Biblical and effective youth ministry can bring to the overall church.
Here are 5 things you can do:
1. Motivate older adults to pray FOR emerging generations – and start with the senior citizens!
One of the best ways to help your church develop a burden for youth is to encourage the older adults to pray intentionally and specifically for them – by name. It’s really very simple. Start by compiling a list of your church’s teenagers. Then meet with your church’s older adults. You could take a few moments and drop in on their Sunday School class. Ask them to pray for the teenagers by name. Remind them how important it is for them to pray for the church’s youth. You could divide your list of names by each day of the week or assign specific students as prayer partners with specific adults. I know of one church that actually made prayer cards for each student. The important thing is to do everything you can to motivate the adults to pray specifically for individual young people. Once they begin to pray regularly and intentionally for the teenagers, the Lord will put a growing burden on their heart for those students to live for God. You’ll be amazed at how much this helps.
2. Give your adults specific opportunities to SEE the younger generations actively living for the Lord.
I am a big fan of connecting the generations in church. The Apostle Paul must have wanted that to happen, too. He wrote this in 1 Timothy 4:12, “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers…” Being an example requires exposure. Separating the generations does not give them any exposure to each other. I am convinced that the older generations want the same thing you do – for your church’s young people to live for God! So, do whatever you can to give the older generations specific opportunities to see positive examples of your students living for the Lord and serving Him. Perhaps the traditional “youth night” services are one way of doing that. But, there are other tangible ways as well. Give your teens specific and visible opportunities to serve the Lord in the church. For example, you could schedule work days for the students to invest in “sweat equity” in the church.
Tim Ahlgrim. my co-worker at Vision For Youth, had a great idea. When he was a youth pastor, he actually taught the senior citizens Sunday School class. On several occasions he took them on a “field trip” to the youth class where they could see and hear the youth worship the Lord with fervency and enthusiasm. The seniors were also there to hear the announcements and the testimonies of the many, many ways the youth group served the Lord and actively witnessed for Him. There will never be unity or camaraderie between the generations until both groups are actually “on the same page.”
3. Provide specific opportunities for the different generations to have interaction and fellowship WITH EACH OTHER.
Let’s face it; most of our churches do not give the various generations even simple opportunities to get to know each other. Why not schedule and plan a simple fellowship time for your church’s teenagers and older adults? Some churches ask their youth to put on a meal for the seniors. Other churches schedule a table-game night at the church. The actual ideas are almost endless. The important thing is for the youth and the older adults to get to know each other. You’ll be amazed at how positive this simple idea can be.
4. Begin to provide ways for the different generations to pray WITH each other, but begin slowly.
It may be threatening to schedule prayer times together as the first way to connect the generations. Serious prayer times should be intimate and can be intimidating if relationships are not built first. However, once the various generations have prayed FOR each other and once they get to know each other – praying together can be a powerful connecting influence. You know how it is. People who pray with each other end up praying for each other. True inter-generational prayer services can be very positive for any church.
5. Provide significant ways for younger people to SERVE ALONGSIDE older people in established ministries.
Encourage every adult in your church to recruit a younger person to serve alongside them in specific ministry responsibilities. This should be the expected norm in your church. If someone teaches a VBS class, they should be expected to find a younger person to serve as their assistant. Your sound room staff should be training younger people to someday replace them. Why not ask your church ushers to include young people on the team? And don’t forget the worship team. It would be a significant visual aid for the entire church to see older people and younger people serving the Lord together in your church’s public music ministry. Church work days can be another opportunity for significant inter-generational relationships to develop. The important thing is to provide or create ways for the different generations to serve the Lord together.
Readers, I’d love to hear your ideas or specific illustrations of how these suggestions can work in church situations. Feel free to post your thoughts below.