In and Beyond the Congregation – Involving Youth Ministry as a Part of the Church

Ministry to our young people should hold a VERY important place in our parish programs. Gen Z teenagers want and look for involvement in activities and organizations that can make a difference.  Young people are a part of our church as much as any others and need to be seen and accepted as such.  At the same time, as we open our hearts to hear and experience a new perspective on ministry, the youth involved need to accept and understand the wealth of wisdom that they have in their church communities. It is a joint effort between ALL involved.  While the youth can bring new ideas, energy, and insight, older members can be supportive, accepting and open to share their life wisdom with others.

To make this a reality at the local parish level, an intergenerational element to youth ministry is a key component.  At a church I recently served, we were in the process of calling an associate pastor.  When the District President came to visit with the elders and the call committee, his first question to the group was, “Where are the youth?”  The same question might be asked to our congregational committees and boards, “Where are the youth?”  We often wonder why we have lost young people in the church.  Have we allowed them to feel, experience and be a part of the ministry?  Have we accepted their ideas and input, along with their desire to serve?  Have we activated them in REAL ministry opportunities? Can church leadership be more intentional about inviting them in, involving them, educating them to the task, and honestly being open to hearing their new ideas, feedback and input?

From the youth perspective, what do they see as needs of the church and the community?  What ideas might they bring to exploring new opportunities for mission and ministry?  As churches we need to be open to not just what our needs are, but what are the needs of the community around us, and how does our mission help to answer those needs.  As we start the process for laying out our goals for the new year, may we be intentional about including the youth in that effort, not just for the youth program, but for all the ministry opportunities of the church as well.

For all of this to occur PRAYER is the key component to the process!

As a youth/church leader, volunteer, or parents, pray for:

  • YOURSELF – Ask the Holy Spirit to be with you and guide you in your thoughts and the direction He has for you in the ministry for youth and the church.
  • OUR YOUTH – That through the power of the Holy Spirit they may see, accept and understand their role as young leaders in the life of the church.
  • OUR CHURCH LEADERSHIP – What a BIG responsibility our church lay leadership and professional staff have in the mission Christ has laid out for us. For many, this could be a big paradigm shift for the church.

And then, move forward!

The 7 Practices of Healthy Youth Ministry that our Synod has developed provide an excellent starting point for this discussion.  ( Share this article & the 7 Practices with your youth leaders, pastors, students & church leadership teams.  Use it as an opportunity for discussion and getting the ball rolling.  As you move forward remember it is a process.  I once heard the expression “It’s like putting pants on an elephant, one leg at a time.”   You can’t do it all at once, but through prayer, and by analyzing the needs and gifts of your parish and community, you can move forward one step at a time to help bring youth, church and community together in service for our Lord!

A church I have recently attended has as their theme, Tell the Next Generation!  (From Psalm 78, with a focus on verse 4) What an awesome message to share, and work towards as a congregation!  May we all, being guided by the Spirit see the gifts that all generations have to move forward with this prayer:

O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

To God alone be the Glory! 

Published November 7, 2022

About the author

Alan Wunderlich has been blessed by God's grace to have been able to work in youth ministry and school education for over 40 years. It has been an awesome ride!! In addition to the blessings of ministry, he has been truly blessed to be married to his wife Kim for over 36 years. They have four awesome children and this past April their first grandchild was born. He currently serve as Director of Student Ministries and Assistant Principal at Immanuel Lutheran Church and School, Washington, MO.
View more from Alan

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