One of my favorite parts of being a youth director was traveling to local congregations to participate in the annual Investiture of the churches’ Pathfinder clubs. One particular Investiture service, however, I will never forget. And it highlighted for me the crucial role that each church member plays in the development of our young people.
When the night of Investiture came, the Pathfinders were in their dress uniforms and looking sharp. When the program began, they marched into the auditorium with precision, posted the colors, recited the Pathfinder law and pledge, sang the Pathfinder song, and stood at attention as their director gave a welcome. The only problem—there was no one there except us! No parents (except those in charge of the Pathfinder program), and no church members or friends chose to come out to support them, not even the pastor.
As I stared at the empty chairs, I wondered what the Pathfinders might be thinking. Maybe what we have accomplished is not all that important or Our church really doesn’t care about us are thoughts no young person who attends an Adventist church should ever have to entertain. The truth is, what they accomplished was tremendously important, and support from the local congregation would have been extremely meaningful. Each church member is involved in youth ministry—it’s up to each of us to make sure our participation has a positive impact.
I believe there is no more important work in our churches than to be youth ministers. Some might ask, “How do I do that? I am not gifted for working with young people.” The task may seem daunting, but you don’t have to lead a program to make a huge difference. Here are eight ways you can become part of the youth ministry team of your church:
- Support all the programs youth are involved in with your presence. Just by showing up, the young people will feel your love and support and sense their worth to their church. Who knows? You might even receive a blessing from attending their programs.
- Know each young person in your church by name. I can’t stress how important this is. You might not realize this, but young people look up to you as an adult. When you call them out by name with a warm greeting or message, it blesses them and makes them feel valued and important.
- Thank, honor, and support those who work directly with the youth. Those who voluntarily give of their time and resources to teach our young people in Sabbath school, direct and help in Pathfinder programs, and lead out in youth groups need our love and care. Those are not easy offices to hold in a church, but are among the most important.
- Never be a source of discouragement to your young people. Having a patient, loving heart toward our young people does more for them than any program we could ever offer. Christ himself spoke some of His most poignant words of rebuke when speaking about those who would dishearten our youth.
- Support our youth and their involvement such as in camp programs and mission projects. Did you know a camp setting is the number one place young people make commitment to the Lord? Summer camp is serious ministry and it would be good for every eligible young person in our churches to be able to go. Find ways to make it affordable for our kids to attend camp and be involved in short term mission trips and other youth ministry opportunities. I can think of no greater investment for our church!
- Support and encourage our children to be a part of Christian education. The data supporting the benefits of a Christian education is amazing. Not only do students thrive academically, they are also four times less likely to be involved in self-destructive behavior and four times more likely to be involved with the church when they become an adult. Our schools are powerful youth ministries!
- Pray for them. Put the children in your church on your prayer list and pray for them by name.
- Support your youth’s involvement in church. Our young people have so much talent and want to contribute. Give them the opportunity to be a part of the worship service and let them play a role in the churches activities. Chances are they will make a few mistakes and have a few faux pas, but they will enrich your church with their gifts and abilities.
If you will take to heart these suggestions, you will have a tremendous impact on the youth in your church. You are needed! You may not always see immediately the difference you are making, but the impact of youth ministries can last a lifetime.