If you had one invest you could make, what would it be?
Would it be an investment of your money? Your time? Your talents? Your other resources? An investment in a business or stocks? An investment in a start up or a person?
If you are a part of a local church community, I think the best possible investment you can make with your life is to invest in CHILDREN AND STUDENTS - YOUNG PEOPLE.
Make no mistake, this will be an invest of your time, money, talent, and resources but it is an amazing investment. This investment has perhaps more world changing potential than any other you could ever make.
Unfortunately, investing in young people is not as common as you might think and this can be especially true in the Church. In fact, I would argue that more often we make some pretty big mistakes with young people in the Church.
Speaking as a young person, my opinion might be a little bias and considered by some to be too bias to write on this subject. However, I think as a young person who has spent the last 10 years in student ministry, I am uniquely positioned to speak on these matters. For 13 years I have served in churches as a pastor (Student Pastor, Worship Pastor, or Co-Lead Church Planting Pastor) or as a volunteer. During this time, I've witnessed and even made a few mistakes myself with young people.
I want to share with you 4 mistakes we often make with young people in the church:
Mistake #1: We treat them like the next generation and fail to recognize that they are the CURRENT GENERATION. Millennials to generation Z, are desperate for recognition but not with trophies and accolades. They simply want to be recognized as valuable and important. They want to be heard just like anyone else. They want to be considered for jobs, promotions, input on family decisions, and leadership positions.
Sadly, in the church we keep viewing young people like they just aren’t ready for real life yet. We communicate that they don’t understand what it is like in the REAL WORLD. Perhaps, young people don't fully understand what you who are older have experienced. However, young people age 13 and up are not the next generation. They are the current generation. Young people in there twenties are raising families, getting jobs, starting companies, planting churches, and becoming leaders in their community, company, and church. They have experienced the REAL WORLD.
They are not "next in line."
They are on the "ride of life" now.
We must recognize this reality, lest we fall short in trying to reach young people.
Teenagers are also doing amazing things these days. They may not be raising families (hopefully not) or starting companies but they are using their creativity, passion, and compassion to change schools, lead their friends to Christ, start small groups, bible studies, and clubs that change the face of their schools. They are heavily involved with things like FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) and YFC (Youth For Christ) and youth group. They care about their lost friends. They are the generation right now. We’ve got to realize this and we cannot treat them like the next in line.
Mistake #2: We make them sit on the sidelines. I am convinced that I will never understand this mindset but I have watch it happen time and time again. I hear it in the way people speak. I see it in their face and the way they react towards young people. I've even experienced this personally on a few occasions.
Ok... ON MULTIPLE OCCASIONS.
Typically, this mistake is made when we operate with the belief that young people can't serve until they have reached an age of “arrival.” I think it is a travesty that we wouldn't let young people use the gifts and talents God has given them to serve in the Church (MFC this is not true of you) because they haven't "ARRIVED YET."
You could almost call this "reverse entitlement." Instead of feeling superior about your own gifting or skills like being entitled, we hold others back from doing things they may be perfectly gifted to do. It happens when we say, "You don't have enough experience or you don't have enough wisdom yet to lead or serve in a particular position." It seems to me that this only really exists in the church (at least that is where I see it most). If we want to reach young people, we have got to change this mindset.
In fact, I think if we keep waiting on young people to reach what we consider the age of “having arrived” to lead, serve on boards, preach in churches, lead worship, to be pastors, to make business decisions, to lead ministries than it will be too late. They will move on to something else.
The world has figured out that young people have a lot to offer and can make a significant difference and the church must catch up. We have got to let go of the fear that THEY MIGHT CHANGE SOMETHING. THEY MIGHT DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT. IT MIGHT NOT BE WHAT I AM USED TO.
Let me give you some examples of young people that seem to have arrived even though they are young. Despite his current predicament, Mark Zuckerberg is now 33 years-old, and at the age of 19 he changed the world with the invention of Facebook. He now has a net worth of $72.5 Billion. Steven Furtick, at the age of 26 planted a church in Charlotte, NC and it rapidly became the fastest growing church in the U.S. In 2017, they reported having 17 campuses with an average attendance reaching over 25,000 people.
Young people can accomplish amazing things, if we step out of the way and let them serve.
Mistake #3: We set very low expectations. I learned very early on in working with students from a seasoned veteran of ministry that if you set high expectations, most often students will live up to them. Students rarely have people in their life expecting much out of them. They want to live up to high standards.
We don’t expect our students or young people to do anything. In fact, I think the expectation across the board is that young people are entitled, lazy, and unwilling to work to get what their parents have. They want everything handed to them.
You know what? … In some cases that might be true of young people. But here is some hard truth… I know a lot of older people that have that exact same mindset. That happens across all age ranges. It isn’t JUST young people.
We’ve got to stop setting our expectations so low for young people. We need to believe that they can do big things, encourage them to take some risks, and do the stuff we wouldn’t have done or would have been too afraid to do. Don’t encourage them to play it safe. Let’s shatter those low expectations.
Mistake #4: We under resource ministries that reach young people. This is an area of great passion for me because I have witnessed this mistake way too many times. I have personally worked in churches that say weekly, "We believe youth are the most important thing in our church."
YET they don't invest financially. They have ridiculously under resourced ministries for young people.
If it was the most important thing to the church, the people of those churches would make sure the youth and children's ministries were fully funded. Instead, those church leaders and board members encouraged those ministries to do poor profiting fundraisers like car washes. By the way, a car wash is the worst fundraiser and you never make enough money to even pay for the supplies. These churches, also made sure memorial funds and cemetery funds had plenty of money in them.
WHY DO DEAD PEOPLE NEED MONEY? WHY DO CHURCHES HAVE CEMETERIES?
I may never know.
Please CHURCH... I beg you... spend your money on the living. If you want to spend it on the dead than spend it on the SPIRITUALLY DEAD. Invest in those that don't know Jesus.
We must do all we can in our local churches to NOT make these mistakes with young people because we may only get one chance. We don't want to mess it up by doing something so senseless or selfish.
I hope this challenges you in your thinking and helps put faith in you that young people really are worth investing in. Have a great day. LOVE MORE DO MORE.
Photo by Diego PH on Unsplash