Most people get saved or get serious between the ages of 15 and 25. Every church that has a genuine desire for growth, ought to fully resource that area of church life.
If that’s where the fish are biting, simply employing a youth pastor won’t cut it. Why have a church that leans towards the fifty something’s, when the future is to be filled with the twenty something’s? You don’t want a ‘youth church’ but you do need to have a church that’s ‘youthy’, with people of all ages totally in on the corporate venture of saving souls. Most churches begin a youth franchise by establishing a youth work that is disconnected from the main drive shaft of church life. (The franchise actually begins with the suggestion of placing an advert in a national Christian magazine before looking within the ranks of those already sown into church life). The youth leader is eventually allowed to sit in on the elders meetings, but the division between the in-house and the youth out-house is often exacerbated in those meetings when a tug of war on resources and direction tightens. The generation gap is exposed yet again without anyone realising that it is actually a vision gap. Youth aren’t an ancillary meeting. They are the main meeting.
VISION VERSES STYLE
One of the great tensions of leadership is the tension of pleasing everybody. It is an impossible task. Vision has built within it both a unifying factor as well as a dividing factor. Because of the open window to the young, everyone aged over forty ought to feel absolutely included in the vision of the church, if not necessarily in its style. There ought to be aspects of style that are not understood by the older generation, but accepted by them in order to outwork the vision. The vision determines the style. That’s the plume in the sail of leadership. The lump in the sale of leadership is the orientation to stodgy meetings and the appeasement of stodgy people who hold on to style and glorify the past, no matter how irrelevant it may be to outreach and future growth.
THE FASHION CYCLE
Here’s a case in point – I came into Christianity with ‘scripture and song’ and the tunes of Dave and Dale Garrett. After singing ‘You shall go out with joy’ for the exhilarating millionth time as well as its sequel – ‘Shine, Jesus, Shine’, (shame on you for allowing your song leaders to continue to sing it; songs are like razor blades – they regularly need replacing!), we have moved on to songs that are far more complex musically, with lyrics that are less declarative and more relational. There’s little scripture in song any more. Just lately, however, I heard a batch of songs written by a new generation of twenty something’s. I didn’t like it – it was like a man going back to platforms. It was scripture in song revisited. Move with the times or the times will move without you and you’ll be left with an ageing church. I’m going with the flow that’s leading to the catch!
How does one create a younger church?
Here are come clues –
1. Establish the vision – if the fish are biting then all hands are needed. If thirteen year olds are getting saved by the droves, that’s good for everyone. They’re not youth – they’re people. The vision is souls and growth. Let everything be to that aim. Eliminate ageism.
2. Encourage baton changing – it’s not jobs for life, it’s vision for life. Don’t let anyone hog the limelight. Form two bands from one. Start a media ministry. Add more small groups led by young people. Let your head steward be nineteen. (After all, it doesn’t take rocket science to organise a meeting.)
3. Engage in re-invention – change the way you dress and your preaching style. You may look a little silly and feel a bit uncomfortable, but it’s a statement of re-alignment. Make sure everything you say has both a practical and prophetic edge. Banish all stodginess from your life and ministry, and then be ruthless with everyone else.
4. Enrage the establishment – create a core team that fully imbibes the corporate vision. Add some young guns to the driving seat of the church. Provoke the sleepy and create one passionate vibrant church – not one church with an out-house called ‘Friday Youth’.
5. Enter into discipleship – don’t be intimidated by a trendy young enthusiastic leader. If you don’t disciple him (or her), no one will. Youth leaders are prone to pick up some of the same spirits that drive the young people they are trying to reach. They need you to hone their spirit so that they don’t become ‘one hit wonders’ but get better and better as the years progress.
Some decisions are more important than others. Your decision to turn the rudder towards planet youth could be the greatest decision you could ever make.