There’s nothing like youth ministry, something I’ve been saying for the last 40+ years. I still believe it. Looking at the last 40 years and looking into the future, it is true that ministering to and with young people is one of God’s great challenges and one of the great joys with which He blesses His church.
It is good to remember that young people are not the future church. By virtue of their baptism, they are very much a full part of the Body of Christ. They are fully a part of the church right now.
At the same time, however, they are very much the church’s future. They are the future church workers – pastors, teachers, DCEs, deaconesses – who will serve God and His church. They are the future LWML members, church council members, school board members, etc. They are future youth workers, both professional and volunteer. In that light, young people need our care, nurture, support, affirmation and love like never before. If we don’t provide the care they need, they will go somewhere where they can find it.
Youth ministry these days starts in middle school as early as fifth grade, includes confirmation, moves through high school, then into young adult years through college, military or career up to about 30 years old – a span of as much as 25+ years. Youth ministry can be a daunting task, to be sure.
There seems to be a lot of people who are afraid of teenagers and the post-high school generation currently called “The Millennials,” or at best, are indifferent to them. I don’t understand why. I believe young people are one of the great blessings God gives His church. I love youth ministry and there are at least ten reasons why.
1.) Young people have an awesome energy and enthusiasm for things they love. When they love Jesus, it can be amazing to see how that energy is unleashed and makes a difference in the world.
2.) Teens often demonstrate a remarkable faith. It’s fashionable to be spiritual these days. There seems to be a growing interest in going deeper and being religious with a growing interest in the history and traditions of the church. They are talking about Jesus. There is a lot of interest in Jesus. More and more, we seem to be rediscovering that it’s really all about Jesus!
3.) Young people are looking at commitment in a more positive way. “The Plurals” are coming – a new generation has entered high school. They are the next generation after the Millennials. Their generational type suggests a willingness to join and support institutions like the church. They will join in worthy causes and value relationships. They are team builders and value collaboration. With that kind of attitude, things like the church can really prosper.
4.) Youth ministry is relational. Teens love to have friends. They value others who share the same values and that includes mentoring adults. Youth have always loved meeting other people and aren’t particularly shy about introducing themselves. Their natural interest in their peers is a real plus when it comes to sharing their faith.
5.) They are creative in so many ways. They have wonderful imaginations sometimes just waiting to be unleashed. They are dreamers and visionaries. They want to create a better world and are willing to use their skills ,talents, interests and inclinations to make a difference.
6.) This brings us to their talents. I’ve said it again and again, if it wasn’t for teenagers, most churches wouldn’t have trumpets on Easter morning. Young people are musicians, craftsmen, writers, poets, actors, dancers, sportsmen, athletes, cooks, and more. And they are willing to use their talents to the glory of God and in service to His people.
7.) Teens want to make a difference. The Plural generation will most likely have a strong sense of justice, wanting everyone to be treated fairly and with equity. They love to serve and make a difference in other’s lives.
8.) They won’t hesitate to fault a phony. If they think someone is not on the up and up, they will let them know about it. They have no interest in hypocrisy, their own or someone else’s.
9.) They have questions, all kinds of questions. They are curious, and they want answers. They need the opportunity to ask their questions even if they are hard to answer. We, in turn, need to be prepared to share what we believe and why we believe it. Sometimes we may get to raise our own questions. We need to hear each other’s answers. This whole area can spark great growth in the church as a whole. Asking a question about faith or life or God or theology doesn’t make a young person a heretic. It is evidence of their keen interest in being faithful disciples.
10.) Finally, teenagers are just full of good humor and joy. Sure, they have their down days, but their lives can be full of music, laughter, celebration, energy, love, smiles, and embraces. It really can be great fun being around them and basking in who they are.
As adults, our job is to raise our children including our young people. Martin Luther said it well when he said, “Indeed, for what purpose do we older folks exist other than to care for, instruct and bring up the young.” Those are fit words for us youth ministers!