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eccLast week, I came across this 2010 article on how youth ministry is killing the church.  While I still don’t believe youth ministry is a detriment, integrating youth participation into the already-crafted church life is even more imperative.

As a pastor of a small-ish church, I’ve been trying to integrate more youth participation into various parts of our church life.  Excitement is beginning to bubble from our young people contributing their time and talents in our congregation.  For a young person who never read in Sunday worship, they voiced to me how excited and grateful they were to be a part of the service.  Recently, I’ve seen the value of youth taking on different roles in our fundraisers.  They’ve been a hospitable presence to new young people.  One has taken a leadership role as he engaged the younger youth during children’s time.  Just yesterday, I consulted with two of our high school youth to see what they thought of a program I plan on starting in December.

Granted, I understand there’s always concern when we begin something new or have newer people participate:

What if they make mistakes?
How will our church appear?
They won’t do it like we’ve always done it…
This distracts me from worship…

If we want youth and young adults to get excited about our churches and attend our events, it’s necessary for us to assist them in finding their place in our church community.  We are called to help them find God’s calling for their lives.

Besides school, where else would they find a supportive place to try new things and to seek their gifts?  When I was in Junior League, I was told that one of their goals was to help prepare us for the fundraising/philanthropic work we would do in our communities.  After reflecting upon this, I realized it’s essential for church to be a place of preparation for young people (as well as middle-aged congregants and older adults).

Church needs to be that grace-filled safe place where all people, including young people, can search for their gifts and God’s call.

What if church is that place where we can break out our clarinets and trumpets and play on a Sunday morning?  What if church is the place where someone can try a new fellowship activity or fundraiser?  How would they grow?  How would we adults grow as being part of this process?

Undoubtedly, they will make mistakes.  Guess what – so do I.  So do all of you.  Mistakes in worship and other parts of church life are nothing new.  They may fail.  The quality of their work will sometimes be insufficient.  But instead of focusing on these as mistakes or imperfections, let us look at them like opportunities.  Active in our churches are young people excited to be a part of our community.  This is a blessing in our shrinking Mainline Protestant churches!  Their involvement in the various parts of congregational life proves that our churches aren’t dying.

If we feel that they are distracting or making a too many mistakes, there is one great remedy to making them near-perfect: adult participation.  One or two adults can’t fulfill all of the youth development in a church.  We need all levels of participation – from those who mentor confirmands to those who accompany young people on fellowship activities.  As a pastor, I love to be as involved as possible in the spiritual development in our youth.  But having the support and energy of the majority of church members gives our youth more hope, encouragement and motivation to stay involved in churches and become the people God has called them to be.