"Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox come abundant harvests." Proverbs 14:4
Within our communities, our homes and churches lies a powerful beast. This beast has the ability to make a mess, break things, and leave you with numerous problems. However, this beast also has the ability to catapult your church to another level. This beast has passion, energy, ideas, and creativity. The beast I speak of is youth. You know... those kids, teenagers and young adults that are everywhere. You know... those people that we've been talking about for decades. We've been talking about how we need more of them and we need them to be more involved. We keep saying, "Where are they?", "Why isn't it like it used to be?".
Maybe it's because we've chained up that beast called youth. We've kept them in limited roles with no real ability to shape the culture of our churches. We've been afraid of letting go so that they can take hold. We're afraid they will make a mess and we'll get stuck cleaning up behind them. Or maybe we're afraid that they might take our place and we won't be needed anymore.
They will definitely cause problems but if you want a growing and healthy church then active, growing, engaged, and involved young people are essential. So it's time to unleash the beast in your church. Here are some ways to unleash the power of youth in your church:
1) Stop protecting the church from your youth.
Yes, they are novices. Yes, they will mess up. They will be silly when they should be serious. They won't always get the doctrine exactly right. They will say things they shouldn't and you will have to go behind them and clean up the mess. That doesn't mean that your job is to protect the church from the young. It's natural that they make mistakes. It's part of how we as humans learn.
2) Give them real responsibility.
They can tell when you've given them real responsibility instead of a token place to serve. They can tell when you're giving them something to do just so they'll feel like they're a part. Let them shape the culture of the church. Let them pick music. Let them pick the paint colors. Let them make a service order. Let them weigh in on the budget. You're the final decider but give them a real stake in how your church functions and they will take ownership of it.
3) Let them be themselves.
I know Christian rap music might not be your thing and the idea of a dimly lit sanctuary reminds you of the bar across the street. I know that everyone used to wear a suit or dress and ear rings were for girls only, but times have changed. The word is the same but the world has changed. Don't insist that your youth worship exactly like you did when you were young. Let them be themselves. That's the only way anyone can truly live for and worship God.
4) Give them room to make mistakes.
I am so thankful for the opportunities given to me by my Pastor when I was young. He allowed me to try. He gave me chances even when others were telling him to stop wasting service time on those kids. He knew that I would make mistakes. He knew that I wasn't the best or most experienced person for the job, but he gave young people a chance to spread their wings and try. He wasn't afraid of our mistakes. He was afraid of our gifts and talent rotting in the pews.
5) Don't micromanage everything.
I know it's our job as leaders to oversee and guide our young people, but if you're not careful you will find yourself imposing your own personal ideas on them robbing them of their own God-given creativity and passion. No one gets excited about doing your thing, your way, with their name on it.
6) Get ready! They may be better than you.
You've worked hard and honed your abilities. You've reached a level of professionalism and respect. Now here comes someone younger who is making a splash and you don't want to be replaced. Trust me, no one is trying to replace you. There is endless room at the table in the Kingdom of God. One person's success means success for us all. We should be happy when we see young people discovering their calling We should be happy when they start to excel. It means we have done one of our most important jobs. It means we have played a part in their growth and success. Refuse to be jealous. Don't limit them because they are getting too much attention. Unleash them and prepare yourself. They might be better at certain aspects of ministry than you. That's not a knock on you. We all have talents and gifts, and they come from the will of God. Celebrate with them.
7) Be their number one fan
Correct them, guide them but most importantly, cheer for them. Let them know when they do something great. Defend them. Let them see how great they can be by the way you treat them and how you believe in them. Look beyond where they are today and see who they will become. Brag about them publicly. If you get behind them they will get behind you. You won't lose your influence or position to them. In fact, they will elevate you. Their talents and hard work will lift your ministry to new levels.
Maybe, you've been looking for a man or woman of God; someone to help your church move forward; someone experienced and talented; someone polished; a safe bet. We often want a man or woman but God has sent us kids, teenagers and young adults. It's our job to give them the experience they need. It's our job to help them hone their talents and discover their calling. Within our homes, our communities and our churches are powerful creatures who can help lift our churches to the next level. Don't be afraid to unleash the beast.