4 Ways to Incorporate Youth Into Church Life

The church I’m currently at is at a sort of crossroads. On the one hand, we have a great core group of youth that come to youth group on Sunday morning, come to events on Fridays, and are stoked to go to New Orleans next summer for the Youth Gathering. And then on the other, we have a very active community of worship and discipleship. But the two seldom overlap. I have a feeling my experience isn’t the lone case of this happening. In fact, it’s been going on at every church I’ve worked at, so I know it isn’t. The kids get confirmed and become “an adult member” of the church and are then exiled to the “youth room”. If you can see the inconsistency, then you can feel something’s wrong. So the question then becomes: How do we help youth become more involved in the greater life of worship in the church? I have an idea of four things that can help.

1. Involve youth as leaders in the church service itself.

A couple months ago we had a couple of youth help out as readers during the service. It was great. They felt like they were actually a part of the community. And then they’ve been completely absent since. It made the one day they did read almost seem gimmicky. Invite the youth of your church to read, usher, serve communion, do special music… Heck, even get up and tell a story that’s important to them in the sermon time. To involve people of all ages in the community’s time of worship is to really understand what it means to be in ministry together.

2. Invite youth to youth leader meetings.

I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve been in with other youth leaders and the first question we ask is, “Well what would the youth like to do?” And then we hear crickets chirp. You know who is great at answering questions like that? The youth! Incorporate them into meetings with the pastor/leaders and honestly ask for their input. That way, the youth group becomes more an agent of ministry and less an object of ministry. Huge difference.

3. Blend adult small groups with youth small groups.

Small groups have become all the rage in the church. And that’s great. I think any time people commit to gathering together to talk about their life and faith is a wonderful thing. But I think we would get such a richer portrait of the fullness of life in the congregation if we invite youth into our small groups. If we create small groups based on common interest and not common age, we’d get people interacting with each other that maybe have never said a word to each other. And, call me crazy but, I think that’s pretty cool.

4. Have youth serve on church council

Don’t be quick to dismiss this one. I think there would be a lot of good in having a youth representative on your church council. Find a couple solid, mature teenagers and invite them to be a part of the bigger decisions of the church. Teach them how a budget operates, how the values of the community play out in the decision-making process, how inner conflicts are healthily resolved. These are great lessons for kids to learn and are often exhibited in council meetings.

The key point here isn’t just to concede some of the lesser responsibilities of young people. It’s to get a little bit uncomfortable. It’s to take seriously the responsibility they are given in their confirmation and have the same stake in the church that adults do. If we set a higher standard and hold them to it, I suspect many would step up to it.

Cheers,
Eric

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