Why does a strong youth ministry benefit the Church and your church? The answer is cliché, but it works if we interpret the cliché properly, that is – “our youth are the future of the church.” Simply put, a strong youth ministry is the best investment option we have to help sustain the church. Also, buying into that cliché; and, making an intentional effort and emphasis to advocate for the youth and your youth ministry goes a long way in strengthening your church now. Here are a few examples:
• Makes church-goers. As many have noted the goal is not to focus on youth because they are literally the human beings that will potentially populate churches after we are dead and gone; but, because our mission as the Church involves passing on the faith inter-generationally. If we wish our churches to be continually stocked with mature Christian adults capable of leading and improving churches, we have to make them. High School graduates and College graduates do not appear out of thin air: they are formed, molded, and educated so that they can enter into society effectively and contribute the betterment of it. No difference in the church. If you want the Church to continue, you need to nurture the kind of people you want in your church into adulthood. Best program for that: Youth Ministry.
• Models church life and function. To follow up on the assumption made in the last sentence –the best program is Youth Ministry, consider that the more active, organized, and often inviting adult Sunday School classes have very similar qualities as a youth ministry. They get together once a year to plan their calendar, decide on social/fellowship gatherings and events, talk about curriculum wants, etc. Is that not what we often define a ‘strong’ youth group – one that has ownership of their program, focusing energy and creative forces to keep their piece of the church sustainable and inviting, longing to give voice to their questions and concerns about life and faith? These ‘strong’ youth groups are ones that know how to function in groups in the real world, and more importantly to us – will know how to participate in and sustain strong adult fellowship or Sunday school classrooms.
• Flow of creativity and new perspective. If you read publications and blogs of “millenials” you may notice a trend. Millenials claim that if you want them to be a part of your church (i.e. attract young families), you are going to have to let them have ownership of the church. Our youth and young adults are not accessories to collect, but powerful resources to tap into. If you are looking for innovation or new ideas, especially those related to new technologies and cultural concepts – then who better to look to than our youth and young adults? If your cell phone is not working right, step one should be to ask a teenager, and if they cannot figure it out then take it to the cell phone store. Same concept goes along with our churches. If you are looking for a way to explore new methods of communication, programming, or organization –you have a deep resource available to you.
All of these things assume that a ‘strong’ youth ministry is one that is engaged, takes ownership of their church, and is one that is advocated for by the adults in the congregation. It takes a lot of time, effort, and money to establish and sustain a strong youth ministry – but the results are always worth it, for now and in the future. My hope and prayer is that you will advocate for your youth and your youth ministry.