As a kid I couldn't wait to be part of the church. I saw what adults did and anticipated the day when my chance would come. I knew my role then was to go to church and Sunday School with my family. During my college years, when I returned home, I got involved in TNT (Tuesday Night at Timothy). It was a Tuesday night youth event that I designed and helped run. This was the first time I was able to lead a church program. As I watched it progress, youth began to attach to the event itself. A drama was created with a high level of interest and participation.
A cultural switch was taking place. Youth who once wanted to be entertained by programs were beginning to be a part of running and leading those same programs. The youth appeared to care about making a difference in the world. The years of simply watching as adults taught and being forced to wait to lead was over. Not using the youth was a waste of valuable resources.
Our culture was beginning to accept that youth wanted to make a difference right now. If the church would not allow youth to help in some part, they would find somewhere else they would be valued. The youth made a mental switch from wanting to listen and wait for another program, to being a part of developing it. Church leaders watched it happen across the country with a renewed heart for missions, and teams committed to helping others. The rise of the Servant nature was taking over.
Church leaders should take note and see this new heart as a great way to move forward by developing a youth leadership team. The value of a leadership team in youth ministry lies in watching youth grow in leadership, utilizing their creativity and energy in a positive way to benefit youth ministry and the church at large. This takes the heart trained in Sunday School and committed at Confirmation to a new level of outreach and evangelism. Begin watching for those youth during the middle school years who you can see and develop as potential leaders. Creating a connection and encouraging their faith commitment will help them stay involved in youth ministry, not to mention increasing the number of those who hear about Christ as they bring their friends along.
If the mission of the church is to save the lost and strengthen those who know Jesus already, then providing the opportunity for youth to get involved in this mission and vision early will benefit everyone. It opens the youth's eyes to the needs of the grocery checker or the guy behind the fast food counter and provides the training and events geared to ask, "Do you know my Jesus?" If youth can step out during these early years, imagine where the church can be as they move toward adulthood.
The world is hungry to devour our youth with corrupt and unhealthy practices during their high school years. The fast paced world can distract them and demand their time, keeping them outside the main focus of Jesus as their Savior. Confirmation, providing a firm foundation, is the first step to putting them on track. High school ministry, sometimes viewed as a youth night, develops relationships formed around the growth of faith and the desire to share that faith. This will help them to put in lifelong "Holy Habits." Some of the greatest habits of addiction are created in those teen years when pain and insecurity surrounds them. By encouraging Christian youth to strengthen their faith, they can know a security that will never go away or cause them the pain other unhealthy habits create.
This newfound heart can be a thriving ministry for the church. Seeing your youth involved in bringing people to Jesus and watching as they strengthen those who know him already is amazing. Their hearts are on fire to help the world change. That servant heart is the heart of Christ. Christ's overwhelming love for others, when they least expect it, is amazing. In a culture where youth are questioned because of their age and challenged about almost everything they do, the church can be the place to embrace them.
Our opening event to a high school ministry is a red carpet event. The leadership team has worked to plan this event and create a welcoming atmosphere for high school youth. While the world discounts youth and makes fun of them or tells them they are too young, we embrace them. We remind them they are loved and teach them the love of Jesus and how to share it. Jesus continued to love all ages. The heart of Christ was to guide all people to follow him and share his mission. When the youth are incorporated into the mission of the church, they potentially help guide those older than themselves to see a new vibrancy and way to share Jesus. It is a life-changing picture that encourages everyone.