What Does Youth Ministry Have to Do With Engaging Adults?
This past Sunday I walked in to church to see about 30 young people standing behind the worship team leading songs. I thought to myself, “Oh good, it must be some kind of special Sunday.” I also saw several youth lining the seats of the congregation. Later in the service three teenagers sang a beautiful song during offering. At one point in the service there was a time for people to share prayer concerns. One adult shared how grateful she was for all the young people who have been so inclusive of her daughter who has Downs Syndrome and encouraged them to continue being Christ’s light in the community. As I stood for the final prayer I thought to myself, “This is a special Sunday because we have been reminded of how vital young people are to the present and future church.” Their faith provoked me to want to be more like Jesus.
So I’d like to share 3 things that matter in ministry with youth that have a direct impact on the faith of adults:
- Every Sunday is Youth Sunday – While musical gifts of youth were highlighted on this particular Sunday, this was not a “youth Sunday.” You know, that token Sunday a year when we let the youth participate in leading worship? What I’ve noticed at this church is that youth are present every Sunday. There are young people hanging out around the donuts, young people handing out bulletins, young people lining the seats (front and center), and young people being talked about, prayed for, and spoken to. A culture has been created where young people are a normal part of the identity of this congregation. And adults are watching and listening. When young people are present, adults want to be better parents and role models. Adults want to be around when young people are present.
- Serving Together – When adults serve side by side with youth, adults tend to be challenged to grow in their faith. On the last evening of every mission trip I’ve lead, we take some time to share how we had seen God that week. Many powerful stories are shared, and there’s always at least one adult leader that wants to say something to the youth. During one of these times of sharing, a dad who was also a police officer made a pledge to the youth: “If you are ever in trouble, here is my personal cell phone number. Call me and I’ll do whatever it takes to help you, I’ll always be here for you.” Adults are transformed when they see young people being selfless while serving others and are pushed to do it themselves.
- Listening – The Developmental Relationships Study by Search Institute reminds us that when adults express care, particularly by being present and showing interest in young people, it has a profound positive impact on youth development. But there is something else that happens when adults put all of their agendas, advice, and lectures aside and fully listen to young people. The hearts and minds of adults are opened and they learn about the significance of acceptance. In fact, often adults are reminded of their own need for acceptance and how important it is to be the person who God had intended instead of trying to be what everyone else expects. One adult said to me after spending a weekend with the youth, “They make me want to be a better mom.” We adults need to listen fully to young people without judgement and in turn we will see the light of Christ and be drawn to Him.
Growing in our faith is a lifelong journey that doesn’t stop when we graduate from high school. When adults are thrust into relationship with young people and learn to watch and listen instead of always feeling like they need to direct and teach, the faith of adults is given new life. Growing in our faith does not only happen from the top down (from old to young), it happens when communities of all ages gather in a culture that creates a desire to grow closer to Jesus and says every single person matters equally to God.