At dinner the other night, a friend asked me, “Why do you do youth ministry”? I sat there and was thinking about it and the answer came fairly quickly.
I do youth work, because as a teenager my church and my youth pastor in high school made me feel relevant, important, and valued by my church family. I felt that I was not the future of the church, but important to the church and useful even as a younger member. I realize that my pastor, like our previous youth pastor (also my boss now) knew youth are not the future of the church, but the present and that we can not look to youth as just future leaders, but as leaders.
I thought about this more today as I sat the walk in closet in my wife and my bedroom. You see last week, the present closet racks we had decided to leap off the wall. Now I could have sat on the decision to take on a closet redesign and just put the racks we had back up on the wall with stronger drywall anchors. I say I could have, but my wife and I had this discussion earlier this spring about designing and having closet shelves installed with new racks.
Why do I tell you about my newest home improvement project? Because if I had never been trusted as a teen to go to the Mountains of Appalachia and learn home repair projects for the Appalachia Service Project and work with adults who trusted me, I may have never taken on this project. I would have probably been like many people and just hung them back on the wall and taken the easy way out, but I didn’t because I believed I could do it.
Last year one of my youth decided college was not for him. That instead he thought he would follow his desire to join the military. He wanted to follow his dream to join the infantry. He wanted to serve his country and while mom may have had some reservations, she trusted he knew what he wanted. He knew that people trusted him and that after his training people would trust them with his life. This was from years of being involved of the swim team and having adults in his life who helped him trust his decision.
Another case is a youth who has joined our council. She works to show the entire congregation that teens are not just future leaders. That the church trusted her to make decisions that affected everyone in the church.
We just had Youth Sunday on May 15, 2011. Not only did we have teens running every aspect of the 7:45 AM and 9 AM services, but this was the first year of our Youth Band. These 14 young people reworked and learned 3 songs for the service and impressed the congregation so much they have already invited the band to play “Sweet Home Upper Dublin” on Confirmation Sunday.
So, as I look around I see all the things youth are doing and proving that youth are the present part of the church and I believe the entire church is doing youth work without realizing it. I know that we will keep seeing all those youth who have been empowered will become youth workers by just being the adults that the church modeled for them as youth.