My wife and I run youth events, camps, and lead teams around the world. It is our passion to work with young people. We are truly inspired by them and many have become some of our dearest friends and family.
What I love about young people is the lack of religious baggage attached to their creative expression. They are much more free and uninhibited, the way I think God meant us to be. Needless to say, the language of music is powerful despite the fact that the style and relevancy changes from generation to generation. My hope is that we’ll embrace this next movement of minstrels and artists and help them to lead their generation to Christ. In my opinion, this needs to be a huge focus for any looking to be a vital and thriving ministry in worship.
There’s one church in particular that I worked with for many years and often refer to as a great example. There were no musicians at first except the older adults. Over time they produced a number of bands, singer-songwriters, and worship leaders along with a lot of sharp young leaders in general. This happened because the youth minister, the pastor, and a group of parents all decided to create a time and space for them to step into their gifting and grow their talents. They didn’t just build something for them, they allowed them to participate in the building and became a force! I’ve learned a lot from their model and seen it work over and over throughout my friend’s youth ministry career. Though it’s obviously not only about musicians and artists, they’ve clearly produced a bunch of them.
We can’t be afraid of the messes and issues that come along with young creative people. They need grace to grow into responsibility and roles.
We can’t be afraid of the messes and issues that come along with young creative people. They need grace to grow into responsibility and roles. My friend is not only great at spotting talents and making room for them, he’s willing to journey with them as they learn and mature. For most, all they need is to feel needed to do anything or to be a part of something. To impact and influence we simply need to embrace them, messes and all!
In time, relationship is what earns the right to encourage and disciple effectively. We are not so great in the Church at letting people “get it” by way of the Holy Spirit versus our telling them what all they should be doing and how exactly it should be done; while God specializes in working with the messy and leading them deeper into relationship and holiness. “Come as you are” is the Jesus Model. We have a few short years to influence the young generation behind us or we lose them to a world full of other opportunities. A big part of mentoring is creating opportunities for them to explore their gifts and try new things, and a safe place for them to have the freedom to fail.
Internships are a wonderful thing and a key reason some ministries have been so fruitful. As young people grow in skill level, faith, maturity, etc., carve out a job description and give them more responsibility; it works! Over time we’ve seen many young kids grow into strong leaders and move on to great things because they had a place to start. If we are willing to be inconvenienced and quick to befriend we can help steer the course of young talents. Programs are more of a bore to them—they are drawn to friendship!
There are a host of young talents in our churches and, just like we did, they’re watching their heroes and icons, studying them and dreaming how they can do what they do. We shouldn’t be intimidated, it’s not about being as good as their heroes, it’s about making them feel important and encouraged to do become who God has made them. Our worship ministries should always include bringing up the next generation. While relevancy has a place, nothing replaces the generations being joined, the young learning from the older, and vice versa.
We are firm believers in always looking for the ones you can help along. May God give us His heart for young people. I think we are misled to believe we have to change and become more relevant or hip to be an influence, but we don’t. We just need to be willing to invest ourselves.