Recent youth ministry studies suggest that we may not be acting intentionally enough about helping kids transition through our programs. How can we facilitate better transitions?

January 19, 2015 1 5 comments

We need help composing biblical guidelines that can be understood by the typical teen, are based on respectful behavior toward the leaders and one another, and aren't a list of "don't" rules.

January 18, 2015 0 1 comments

Normally youth ministry staff are paid based on the hours they work planning youth activities. What are guidelines for compensation when they are with the youth 24 hrs per day?

January 14, 2015 0 1 comments

From the many contributors of the Youth Ministry section of the Network, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We look forward to chatting with you again in 2015.

Blessings from the team.

December 23, 2014 0 0 comments

When churches are feeling overwhelmed and under-resourced it might be time to return to the ABCD’s: Asset Based Church Development.

December 16, 2014 0 0 comments
Resource, Job Opening

Youth Pastor- First CRC, Red Deer, AB.  We are a growing congregation located in Central Alberta.  We are seeking an energized full-time Youth Pastor to work alongside our Associate Pastor and Senior Pastor to grow and learn about our diverse congregation.   B.A. is preferred and experiences can...

December 10, 2014 0 0 comments
Resource, Activity or Game

Here's a great, thought provoking activity for your youth group, small group, family devotions, or even for yourself.

December 9, 2014 2 0 comments

Perhaps we need to consider that the "current" in which we are doing youth ministry is changing. As the denomination engages a new model for direction and vision our ministry will inevitably change.

November 17, 2014 0 1 comments

Sometimes in ministry we set a course for a destinatation but drift further away despite our best efforts.

November 10, 2014 0 0 comments

Christians are perceived as being prideful and critical towards others. How did we acquire this image of a judgemental character?

November 3, 2014 1 13 comments
Resource, Article

So you would like for your tween or teen to be a Christian? What are you doing in your church or at your home that will support your child? If you have high expectations, then you need to give high support.

October 30, 2014 0 1 comments

By now it is universally accepted that people – especially young adults are leaving the church in masses. One reason, it seems, is because Christians are perceived out of touch with reality...

October 27, 2014 1 4 comments
Resource, Website

Anima: The Forum for Worship and the Arts is a project concerned with including our youth and young adults in worship leadership. Training videos available on their website could be used as discussion fodder at worship committee meetings or planning groups.

October 20, 2014 0 1 comments

I believe that many of our churches can still turn the tide on the youth and young adult exodus--even though these feel like anxious times.

October 20, 2014 2 0 comments

Listening to others and what they experience in their lives makes us better and more productive tools of God; ones that can carry out His purposes.

October 13, 2014 1 2 comments

Christians are often perceived as hypocrites. How can we reverse this impression and squash moral superiority in our lives?

October 6, 2014 0 18 comments
Discussion Topic

On October 1st, Michael J. Kruger, President and Samuel C. Patterson Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC posted and article entitled "Social Justice and the Gospel: What is the Core Mission of the Church?" Here is the link:

October 2, 2014 0 0 comments

Much like a race car driver needs to slow down through the corner enabling him to go faster in a different direction, so to a youth worker who is making changes needs to go about it at a slower pace...

September 22, 2014 0 0 comments

No one wants to be a volunteer drop out. One tool I use to make sure volunteers feel successful in their roles is a chart of the volunteer lifecycle specifically with youth ministry in mind.

August 20, 2014 1 0 comments

Over 100 ministry leaders from across North America gathered in Grand Rapids, MI, for an afternoon of discussion and learning about doing ministry with students living with autism; hearing, visual, and mobility impairments; mental health challenges; and other disabilities.

August 18, 2014 3 0 comments
Resource, Article

Mark Matlock recently posted on the Youth Specialties website the "5 reasons why the church NEEDS youth ministry". The video in the posting captures a bit of his passion for this, but for those of you who do not have time to watch the video, below are his reasons why the church needs youth ministries.

July 29, 2014 0 0 comments

Often we spend time reviewing what we have done and making plans for what we need to do in the coming season. It is a time of getting feedback, trying to figure out how we can do things better and what changes could or need be done.

July 18, 2014 0 1 comments

When we make changes in ministry, is it proactive and calculated or is it reactive?

July 7, 2014 0 3 comments

As we find rest from a busy season, how are we preparing to refill our cup?

June 27, 2014 1 3 comments
Discussion Topic

Looking for bible studies that focus on specific books of the Bible for teens.

June 18, 2014 0 0 comments



Great question. Firstly, yes of course youth ministry is terrifying - you're talking to people who simply won't stand for jargon, badly thought through arguments, or falseness of any kind. They let you know where you are. We don't always want that, but how refreshing it is for someone like me - having taken on youth group leadership at 63 after teaching the Bible to adults for 40 years!

As far as identify is concerned, we've set out to help with just that question. We started with Psalm 139 and then moved into Genesis 1-2. We're exploring the idea of being made in God's image, being His "Masterpiece" - custom-made with a plan that goes back to the beginning of Creation. Eyes are opening. Next we're going into a look at Jesus - the One who not only demonstrated what it means to live fully and truly as the image-bearer of God, but who also freed us from the power of evil that holds us back from living this amazing life God intended - unique in gifts, experiences, personality, and passion, and perfectly suited for the eternally significant purpose God planned for us. I'm not settled on an approach yet, but looking at things like TImothy Keller's new book (Encounters with Jesus) - anyway looking at what the gospels tell us about how Jesus lived out being "the image of the invisible God" (Col 1:15).

It's just one approach - but so far it seems to be going pretty well. The kids are about to make a video about what it means to them to be "God's Masterpiece" - their idea, not mine. I still approach each week with trepidation, but it's a pretty thrilling ride.

Well put. I think it's better for students to see that we aren't perfect, that we make mistakes - and then, hopefully, see what it looks like to try and make things right in how we respond. Nobody's perfect, and trying to be perfect in front of those we lead can give them the idea that they have to strive for perfection one day. All too quickly that can become twisted into a belief that we must be perfect before we come to Jesus, rather than trusting that it is his work in us that brings righteousness. 

I recently started volunteering with our High School students, and I'm pretty much counting on making a lot of mistakes along the way. I just hope and pray that by showing up, showing love, and doing my best, God will bless us all as we learn together. So in other words: "Yes" is the answer to your final question. :)

Last year we changed things up because there wasn't enought time in the two hours to do justice to both the serious side and the fun/social side.  We meet weekly, with middle school meeting on Wednesday evening and high school meeting on Sunday evening.  They both follow the same basic format.

On the 1st and 3rd weekly meetings of the month, we dedicate this meeting to our study on WDJD - What DID Jesus Do?  We have a meal together, have our "Yeah God" sharing, worship time (usually 3 songs),  then on to the lesson overview as a large group, small group time as a more intimate discussion of the topic, and close in prayer and blessing.

The 2nd weekly meeting is our game night.  We start off with the meal, "Yeah God" time, a shorter worship time, play at least an hours worth of games, and close in prayer and blessing.

The 4th weekly meeting is our service night.  We will eat, have a "Yeah God" time, might have a worship time depending on what the activity is, and then we leave the church to do some type of service in the community.  Some things we've done this year is: rake leaves, hand out water on a trail, made and handed out "tie" blankets, and prepared and participated in a meal for one of our local ministries. 

We've kept this format for this year because we noticed that doing service nights helped keep the students attention during our lesson nights.  And having just a night for games gave everyone a chance for fun and catching up while also providing a non-threatening event to bring friends to.


I have just put together an Evangelism Training Seminar called Go and Tell-an easy and practical way to equip you to become a fisher of men based on the Heidelberg Catechism. This tool has equipped many in our church to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others. Philemon 7 says, "I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ Jesus." I have ha a great response to the Go and Tell seminar based on the Heidelberg Catechism.

For me, "success" isn't instantaneous.  Numbers are nice, especially big numbers.  Even if you know that your students are "taking something home" after a great discussion can be considered successful.  But it's easy to think that because you've finally got 100 students to one of your events, or you can declare to your board that 50% of your students are "actively involved," that you've succeeded.

I've been here long enough to know that lessons or programs or activities that are "successful" one time might flop the next time.

In terms of "short term success", I'd rather ask the question, "Am I being faithful to my calling as a youth leader?" For me, this is far more measurable on a day by day, or week by week basis.

But, you might find an answer 10 years down the road.  Are the students I interacted with 10 years ago still passionate about their faith in Christ? Are they actively participating in a local church? 

Well, that's a short answer to a big question...

HI Danae, I sent you a message last week.  Send me an email -  We've had a combined ministry here for about 20 years. I can forward our combined ministry documents and help field a lot of your questions!

Thanks Shannon. I look forward to seeing where God takes this new initiative and the CRCNA into the future.

posted in: Taking a LEAP

Thanks for articulating the purpose and vision of LEAP so well.

posted in: Taking a LEAP

Thanks Shane for this post.  The Network is a community and we love hearing from everyone. So if you are logged in and you have an idea send to Shane don't hesitate.

You can also send us your blog ideas for any of our Network guides via our Blog Ideas Form

Shane, Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. Our church is definitely considering all sides of this issue, so your thoughts about segregating rather than integrating different ages are helpful, as is the comment about volunteer issues trying to have many ministries at one time. The prompting for asking these questions at our church was based on the observation that we have 4 different ministries (all serving students/kids) that are meeting on 3 different nights. The question that started this for us was, "Can this be simpler?" Naturally, one simple question has given way to many more questions, but it's been good discussions so far. Thanks again!

Hi Rebecca! 

This is such a great topic to dive into, though I'm afraid that there isn't really space to unpack it here. I guess a few reflections and thoughts can contribute, though:

1) I will start by saying that our church doesn't currently do this, though we've considered this specific transition in the past. 
2) My primary concerns with doing an evening like this becomes primarily segregation. I believe that a part of our objectives as leaders is to include different age groups into our ministry, and if you tie everyone else up at the same time during the same evening (parents in one classroom, students in another, children in a third, and elderly in a fourth) you're creating distinct and specific divisions amongst age groups. I'm more about intergenerational ministry that contributes as a whole to the church, and doesn't like to see division. 
3) Finally, you could run into volunteer issues when trying to include everyone at the same place at the same time. 

I know it's not an ideal model, but the division of programs could actually contribute to a more sustainable and inclusive ministry in terms of others (beyond youth). It's definitely not as convenient, but it is a more inclusive approach (in my mind). 

The book "Forgive Me For Waiting So Long To Tell You This" is a great one to give to friends and family. It was written specifically to be given to non-believing family and friends. And best of all... it is FREE on amazon! Here is the link to it:

Talking about tough issues together came up in a recent faith formation team meeting at my church. Someone pointed out that many of the issues that turn teens off to the church are the same issues that adults in the church are struggling with--how does the church respond to homosexuality, climate change/environmental issues, science and creation, etc. We expect that our church would be quite divided on these issues and wondered if it would be helpful to have an intergenerational time for teens through adults to sit around tables and discuss tough topics.

First, though, we would need to focus on creating sacred space and preparing ourselves to listen to others and value their perspectives, acknowledging that we are all trying to figure out how to honor Christ and love our neighbors in real life. We would need to be deliberate about helping people learn Christian civility--how to agree and disagree while still remaining calm and having mutual respect for one another. We thought that bringing together teens and adults might open everyone’s eyes to real situations we are facing as individuals and as a church, and help both teens and adults learn how to wrestle with these topics in a health way that strengthens their faith instead of harming it.

I'm not sure where we will go with this, but I'd be interested to hear if others are doing something similar and how they have approached it.

Just a coment on how Youth for Christ works in our small town of Listowel. They mostly work with unchurched youth and young mothers. As a supporting church, some of those youth some times end up coming to our church. I see them working in partnership with local churches. In Nicaragua, World Renew works closely with the YMCA, I do not believe  CRWM does, at least not the one in Santa Lucia. I do not know how or if our partership with the YMCA reinforces the local church. I hope to find out more about that when we go back next March.

Thanks, Ray.  Helpful information and perspective.  Allow me some commentary and reminisences....

Bsides my three-word "missiology" (Word and Deed) I have a corallary: Christ-centered, Church-based."  Hence in part my question about this.  Next, I suppose I work out of some old paradigms - I've already been retired 10 years!  When I grew up Youth for Christ (and I understand your equivalence; fine) was frowed upon for a couple of reasons - it was para-ecclesiastical, and worse, it took young people away from the churches.  OK, granted; other times, other places now. And I like when the churches can work together and if it takes a para-church group to make that happen, fine.  But I still wonder if the local churches are seeing a reinforcement of holistic growth in their ministries...which leads me to ask:

...about the last part of my response: are both CRWM and World Renew working with the YMCA on this? 

Hey Lou, Sorry I was gone and missed your comment. The community I am talking about in Nicaragua is not bassed in any one church, but the local YMCA in Santa Lucia. The YMCA in Nicaragua is a Christian organization, unlike the one in North America. Any of the work we have done has been done thru them. From what I have seen of the YMCA's work, it seems a lot like Youth For Christ here in Canada, only they work with the whole community, not just teens.


Hi Lou! 

Thanks for your feedback, and for credit for the article. But, unfortunately, this was put together by Ray Heeres, and you'd have to follow the link above to his profile to have your question answered. Thanks!

Thanks for this piece, Shane; my ambivalence about short term missions continues after having looked at that phenomena for many years.  I have a question: you mention "community" but not really "church."  Is there coordination with some local church group, or what form does the "community" take in this?  Additional information, please, and your comment about the role of the church - and our Mission also present in the country - when you go with World Renew?

Great post. Favorite line, "We are not bringing Jesus to Nicaragua, he's already there."

I work for a community development organization that works in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Mexico. Check us out at This post is definitely getting bookmarked as an example of how to do STMs - Thanks for writing it!

In your case, Paul, it sounds like a good decision to plant with a youth leader on staff. This confirms my belief that if God wills something it comes about naturally and the path he desires us to take is obvious.

On the flip side, your experience should serve as a lesson (if not warning) for churches who are considering a new direction or the addition of a new staff position. If a ministry just isn't clicking with the community or if church leadership is forcing an agenda upon the congregation, that might be God's way of saying, "not yet" or "no" to a course of action. I'm not suggesting we appease the status quo, but we need to be willing to admit something didn't work and then set our thoughts on what God has gifted our churches to do.

It's good to hear a story about something that "just works." I hope that continues in all areas of your church plant.

Mark VanDyke, Sumas CRC, Sumas WA

Not to be overly picky, but Pope Francis becomes "Pope Francis I" when there is a Pope Francis II."  Until then he's plain and simple Pope Francis.  Some of my Catholic friends have harrumphed about our Protestant errors (good naturedly, but I got the point).

I'm sorry no one ever responded to this.

I don't think you should feel bad recognizing where you see growth and enthusiasm and focusing on that area.  When Jesus said, "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces,"  certainly this can include young people as well who have absolutely no interest in hearing what you have to say.

I think the real issue at hand is the whole church has become more focussed on attendance instead of lifechange.  I think we all mourn the loss of a young person who leaves the church.  But i don't think it's your fault that the kid was not interested in being a participant in the youth program.  We should not allow a person to disrupt the group, group time is group time.  I may try to engage more personally over a visit, when focussing on him or her is the whole aim.  But if you're not able to get through to someone who is rejecting the church it's not you they are rejecting and it's not your fault.  You only have so many hours in a week to minister, you can only put so much into one person who is not interested.

I doubt you were truly happy when that kid didn't show up.  More likely you were recognizing that they didn't show up even when their body was there.  You probably pray holes in your knees for these kids, that's not giving up.

God bless you as you continue to discern where your efforts are making a difference and don't beat yourself up when a kid leaves or never really was there.  God is the one who changes lives working in hearts, not our talks and programs, anyways.

Sorry, John! I agree that I've worded that wrong. It should say "Protestant Church". 

Hi Shane: Thanks for the perspective, it is much needed.  I refer you to an excellent article by Mark Buchanan, pastor of New Life Community Church in Duncan, British Columbia found in the Summer 2012 Leadership Journal. The article is titled "When Clean and Unclean Touch." He comments on John 1:16,17 "From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."  Buchanan finds here a "revolutionary reversal."  It was in grace that Jesus embraced sinners, and that embrace often led to their embracing the truth which He declared.  He touches lepers (Mtt 8:3) and He feasts with tax collecters and "sinners"(Mtt 9:9-13). Buchanan sees Jesus reversing truth first and then grace into grace first and then truth. The ultmate example of this approach is found in Romans 5:8: "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Very interesting! I like your analogy of dancing because  it responds to Psalm 149:3: "Let them praise His name with dancing."  If the dance is the tango then we are to be graciously "en-tango-ed" with others in the wilderness!

Shane, I apologize for missing your meaning in "keys behind a screen" analogy.  I'm with you on reducing complacency.  But maybe complacency means different things to different people sometimes too.  " Living out your journey" sounds like worldly self-actualization to me.   It could be similar to living for Jesus, but at first glance doesn't sound like it;  it sounds like a way of disguising it.   Living out your faith on the other hand as you mention, does mean real living for Jesus.  Of course, children of alcoholics, and alcoholics themselves, people in poverty, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, thieves, murderers, drug addicts are in the end sinners (like us) in need of a saviour .   And a saviour changes lives.   Faith without works is dead, both for us, and for those we are attempting to help(James 2).   Those who love Jesus know that friendship with the world is hatred towards God (James 4:4)   "No one who lives in him keeps on sinning" ( I John3:6 and other verses in I John).  I would argue that this is not grey, but a mix of black and white;  in other words the black remains clearly black and the white remains clearly white, but they are intermingled in a struggle with each other.  In normal worldly terms, the struggling white would become destroyed by the black, and everything would be a dull dark foggy grey.   But Christ changes that around so that the white light eliminates the darkness and removes it, so that everything becomes white by the power of HIs spirit.  Complacency is satisfied with a dull grey;  sometimes complacency is satisfied by zebra stripes of black and white.  Christ is not satisfied with that. 

So inclusion is the wrong word.  It leaves the wrong impression.   We witness to everyone.  But we recognize the battle against principalities and powers of darkness and spiritual forces of evil.  We do not include the evil.  And we cannot "include" those who promote evil or condone it.   However, God's grace is magnificent and marvelous, and we should not forget that either.   Forgiveness should never be far away from our response.   No one is beyond God's grace, should God choose to call (perhaps through us) and they receive. 

I agree it means action, and the action includes food, help, "being there",  and conversation and witness and adoption. 


I too appreciate your comments on this topic. I think it's great to have multiple approaches deal with a conversation. 

I will challenge you on a few things. I believe I'm challenging the church more for it's complacency than for it's theology. Instead of settin the bar for inclusivity and involvement, we find ourselves behind secular culture, who is setting the bar. I don't entirely disagree with your argument of inclusion, but I feel we've wanted our doctrines to speak for themselves instead of living them out. Where does this point us? To action. I believe in living out my faith, and that includes children of poverty, alcoholics, homosexuals, and drug users being part of my journey (something not currently part of our doctrine: especially homosexuality). So the challenge of inclusion means more than keys behind a screen. And that's a grey topic when lived out. 

Shane, I appreciate the attitude in your writing.   However, some of what you have said, troubles me (so you might consider your words a success in "fighting for the kingdom"...).   What troubles me  is not "skirting the edges of heresy...".   But what you said about "secular culture pointing  Church back to her own Gospel message: grace; forgiveness; inclusion; and most of all a love for God and each other" does trouble me.   The secular culture is not pointing towards grace and forgiveness, but rather towards tolerance and acceptance.  The secular culture does not point towards a love for God, but rather towards a love for self-actualization and materialism and gaia.  We also must be careful about how we assume a discussion about "inclusion".   Jesus was very inclusive, yes, but he also told many parables about separating wheat from weeds, bad fish from good fish, sheep from goats.  The statement to the rich man about selling all he had and then following Jesus... why did not Jesus just accept the rich man exactly the way he was?   Why did the prodigal son have to come back to his father?   Why did the woman accused of adultery have to stop sinning?   Why did Jesus select twelve disciples (all male)?   I think the term "inclusion" does not address Jesus message because it is an oversimplification of what Jesus taught.   Using it as a simple mantra or substitute doctrine misses Jesus mission, and avoids truth.  In today's context it is particularly inappropriate it would seem. 

I agree that there is a dark side to Facebook, and that today's world (not only our young people) need to use it with discernment and discretion, but I would argue the point that Facebook feeds aren't helpful for relationships. Facebook, when used well, can be a wonderful touchpoint, another way to communicate with the people we are trying to live in relationship with. Anyone working with youth should know how to use it, and use it well--not to monitor or spy on the youth, but to encourage them, share inspirational things with them, inform them of events, use it to invite them out to coffee, view their pictures they are sharing of their lives, share some of your life with them. Don't use it to be a "FB chaperone" though. I have heard from far too many young people who roll their eyes in disgust about the private messages they have received from a well-meaning youth pastor or uncle who saw their questionable language or photo and felt the need to preach about it. Youth want to be heard, and when they know you care without judging, they will tone it down. Use FB to show you care, not to judge.


posted in: The Hungry Facebook

There have been several times where I've called out students (usually in a private message) about the language they used on facebook.  When I call them out, I basically ask them if the language they just used fit in with religious status or prior posts.  I remind them that their non-Christian friends are constantly judging their relationship with Christ by their actions and words.  And yes, we all slip; however, as their youth leader (or former leader), it's my duty as a brother-in-Christ to hold them accountable just like I hope they hold me accountable.

A couple students actually publicly apologized on facebook, stating that being mad was no excuse for the foul language.  Two former students dropped me as a friend after I called them out.  Others apologized privately and told me what was gonig on which led to very good discussions.

posted in: The Hungry Facebook

Colin! Thanks for your intuitive response. I'm always amazed at certain perspectives we have in our faith communities (ie: the coaching experience). But it's also my belief that we're beginning to see a movement towards organic mission: mission localized and internalized by leaders and lay leaders alike. But, as always, ignorance towards issues is no reason to go on denying them. So thank you for your agreement and we'd love to hear more success stories of your and others work. Grace and peace.

You can just cut and paste those thoughts right into the network sites for other pastors!  I think most of us pastors of all kinds struggle with the same reality.  Our jobs as pastors fill as many hours as we let it right up to 24/7 if we let it.  And our circles of relationships are almost completely within the church community we serve.  How missional is that?  I know of one church situation with a coleague a while back where the church complained because their pastor was coaching hockey (on his off time of course).  "If he has spare time, it should be doing something with the church!"  Then on the other hand, I also know a pastor who has discussed with his Council the matter of being an active presence in the town community the church is in and of having Council hold him accountable to doing that so he can lead by example as well as in word what they hoped would be the reality for the church members.  Thanks for raising the question.


Jack, I actually agree with you.  I was not comparing youth to older leaders so much as emphasizing that authority without wisdom will lead to problems.   And yes, I agree that older leaders are also often "people pleasers" rather than "Christ followers".  I am thinking that older leaders were once young, and if they did not learn wisdom earlier, they often do not gain it later.   I think most of our problems with leadership is that we often assume that they can obtain wisdom after they obtain authority.   Sometimes that happens.   But it is better if they learn Godly wisdom first.  

posted in: Youth Youth Leaders

This is great topic  Ray.  The photo with the post shows a welcome sign at the entrance to a dining hall. It reads something like: “Youth Leaders: meet your mentor”. Mentoring builds youth leadership better than almost anything else. It encourages leadership development and maturity. Having been a youth leader, I can clearly and with much fondness remember each one of the adults that took time to coach and mentor me.  God’s desire for good leadership in me may have been crushed without their wise and loving presence.  What a great vision of Christian community-based leadership: wisdom of the mature working with the ideals and energy of the youth.

I am not sure that I agree with John’s implication that youth (more than older leaders) will try to please people more than please God.  My own observation over many years in leadership is that older leaders get this one wrong more than youth do.

posted in: Youth Youth Leaders

Ray, youth can certainly be leaders, with or without our help.   The question is, how will they be good leaders rather than bad leaders?    While giving them authority is necessary, giving them wisdom is even more important.   Helping them to understand how to make decisions that are pleasing to God, rather than decisions and plans that are just pleasing to people, is a good place to start.   Without that focus, it won't matter whether they are leaders or not.   Without that focus, they will simply lead others down the path to perdition, instead of to the glory of God. 

posted in: Youth Youth Leaders

As I once heard someone say "People tell me that they've been a Christian for twenty years, when they've really been a Christian for only one year, and they've just been repeating themselves for the last 19."

Another important consideration is this, that being older does not automatically make you more spiritually mature.   And you can also probably think of examples where spiritual enthusiasm does not necessarily equate to spiritual maturity.   Sometimes I am thinking that spiritual enthusiasm might be better than spiritual maturity.  Even though it sometimes leads to mistakes and errors, spiritual enthusiasm does not have the error of complacency, which is often attached to "spiritual maturity".   So I would say that the spiritually enthusiastic youth ought not to let themselves be held back too much by the so-called spiritual maturity of the "olders".  Listen yes, consider yes, but live out your obedient joy in Christ in all its fulness where ever and whenever you have the opportunity! 

Melissa, thank you for this post. Two quick observations are in order.  First, the criteria in scripture for church office is not age; it is spiritual maturity. Second, at age 13 Mormon "Teenagers" are inducted into the Aaronic Priesthood and at that point take on all the responsibilities of an adult member. In Soul Searching it is interesting that Mormon youth have a better understanding of their faith and tend to stick much better than Protestant youth. In light of the above observations perhaps it is time for us to recognize that teenagers are young adults who ought to be mentored into adulthood, and the role of adults and particularily elders, is to spiritually mentor young adults. 

We seem to be getting confused by several different issues here and mixing them all together.  

Profession of faith is a bit misnamed since it is seen as a committment to membership, not to faith.  After all, we wouldn't say that those who have not made profession of faith at age 6 or ten or sixteen are necessarily therefore without faith.  Perhaps the faith of a child is often stronger in fact.  So it is really a committment to membership, to particular confessions, to living a life of gratitude and joy and obedience to Christ, and recognizing this in a public way.  This could be done at perhaps age 12 or 16, but too many wait far too long; we might ask ourselves why they wait so long. 

Voting in a congregation ought to be at an age set by the congregation.  Perhaps at 18, or 16, or 20, whatever the congregation decides with council in its wisdom, but not automatically tied to a profession of faith, although it should be a pre-requisite.   In some cases, additional advisory votes by nonprofessing members could also be considered (but non-binding).   

Just because you can vote, doesn't mean you automatically should be able to sit on council.   Again, council and church should set a minimum age, recognizing that while wisdom can be present in the youth, it is not for nothing that elders are called elders and not youngers or middlers.   While exceptions should be possible, it would be good to look at possibly an age of about 30 for council.   I remember being on council a few years before that, and while it was good to serve, it would not have done any harm either to wait a few years. 

There are other places to lead and serve besides council.  Not only that, but no Christ-like elders would deliberately rule out conversations with non-council members, and would normally appreciate their input.  Council meetings are supposed to be open to anyone who wishes to attend, unless it is in executive session.   And non-council members can request an opportunity to speak or present an issue. 

Finally, I find it hard to believe that any council does not look forward to the future leadership of those who are presently young.  But as Ecclesiastes says, there is a time for everything, and everything in its time. 

Being a youth pastor, I really appreciate this article for a few reasons. First, I think it gives a strong voice to something that's been swept under the rug for some time. I wasn't aware of this before working with them, but youth are full of brilliant ideas, energy, and charisma – something a lot of our congregations envy. What better way to harness those gifts than involving them in the core conversations. Secondly, the "maturity" of students is almost always undercredited. They may say or do things that are left field, but maybe that's also the reason they stay away from church leadership (because they're looked down upon so agressively). The church should be the place we not only encourage growth, but where we display grace. And what better way to show those qualities than at a leadership level?

I understand that there are legal boundaries to this, but most congregations won't consider anyone for leadership until at least mid twenties, nearly ten years after they can be "legally bound".

Don't think kids care about this? Simply ask them yourselves. I did and I was surprised at how disappointed they were for not being embraced as future leaders. 

Don't want to throw a wrench into the works, however, serving on council also means sitting on a board of an incorporated NGO. State/Provincial legislation in this area usually requires one to be of legal voting age. 

Consequently, the denomination needs to separate the matter of "profession of faith" from "membership in a society", i.e. church as a legal entity.

a person is called by THE LORD to be part of HIS CHURCH.  after public profession of FAITH, he or she has not only the  RIGHT BUT ALSO THE DUTY to fully participate,in all aspects of KINGDOM  work/

Some interesting words from Job 32:

“I am young in years,
and you are old;
that is why I was fearful,
not daring to tell you what I know.
7 I thought, ‘Age should speak;
advanced years should teach wisdom.’
8 But it is the spirit[b] in a person,
the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding.
9 It is not only the old[c] who are wise,
not only the aged who understand what is right."

Recently, I have been watching some presentations by John Piper, and sermons by Mark Driscoll.   They are addressing and evangelizing the youth.   They are somewhat entertaining, but mostly engaging.   When you have numerous twenty year olds coming back week after week to listen to an hour long sermon, this might give you a clue as to the difference between entertainment and engagement.   Or how an "entertaining" speaker can "engage" the audience.   There is probably no formula to this, but young people will be engaged  when they are directly challenged in a real way about their faith and lifestyle.   And this means that some of them might walk out, because the message is indeed life changing, which they will not all want to do. 

How young is too young for council? Shoot, before we ask that question maybe we ought to deal with the question of how young is too young to be allowed to vote at congregational meetings. My congregation answered that by banning those under 16 from voting, even though they've made profession of faith. My motions to elimnate that were quickly shot down during both my terms on council. I mentioned that, given the policy, and in the interest of honesty, maybe we oughtn't read that part of the profession of faith form that says "I now welcome you to all the privileges of full communion. I welcome you to full participation in the life of the church. I welcome you to its responsibilities, its joys, and its sufferings."

For me, a few ideas come to mind here.  First and foremost, maybe it's not about pushing the age limit lower and lower, but rather about first addressing the issue of the council strongholds being willing to pass on the baton to a younger generation of leaders, and to walk alongside them (as a council member ex-officio, or similar).  My guess is, without having this discussion first, and making this a council-wide priority, plugging in a 21 year old into the council room will have negative effects.

Second, I get frustrated when I hear about "youth representatives" on committees.  This creates a two-tier system, which essentially minimizes the voice of the youth.  Each person who sits at the table comes by nature as a representative of certain groups or demographics, but we name only the "youth rep" for our own agenda.  How come we don't have the "working moms rep" or "over 80 rep" or "knitter's rep" at the table?  

Last, never underestimate the potential having a young adult at the table can bring to the meeting.  What would it mean to have someone constantly ask, "So, tell me, why exactly are we doing it this way?" might slow the meeting down, but it would quickly bring intentionality back to the purpose of your church.  Not to mention the fact that there are some youth that simply have the gift of leadership, perhaps moreso than some of our existing members.  What better place to develop that than within the church?  We have a whole pile of children, youth, and young adults that love Jesus, love the church, and deeply desire to belong and invest in a local congregation.  They want to pour back into the community that helped shape their faith.  We absoutely must give them the opportunity!

I don't think a teenager has the maturity needed to be an elder or deacon. Having said that, I think it would be a good idea  to include them in the council somehow so they can become aware of what it means to lead the church. What I would like to see is more young people, teenagers and post high, given the responsibility of heading ministries in the church - youth groups, Gems, Cadets, Sunday School, etc. This will give them a chance to mature in their roles as leaders. It will also make them feel like they can make an important contribution to the church.  If the older generation has been in charge of youth ministries, it's time to turn over the job of leadership. This also gives the older members a chance to look at new ways God might be leading them. If we give our young people a chance to lead in ministry, to experience the joys and frustrations, that will help them to develop their leadership skills. Then they will be ready to lead as elders and deacons. Maybe they will even think of pursuing the call of ministry, after gaining some experience.

This is really great ! Thanks, Derek! I've shared this with others. 

There is another aspect to the youth program that could help to bring in the entire congregation.   The most successful youth program is one that enlists the help and support of every single adult in the church.   By that I mean that the congregation needs to pray for the youth, teach the youth, encourage the youth in coming to Christ, and encourage the youth in faithful living for Christ.   No youth pastor or any other pastor can do that all by himself.   Every parent and grandparent needs to be taught how to do that, to help with that at home, on vacation, at school activities, in evening discussions, shared meals, and at every opportunity.  The preaching of the lead pastor should also be mentioning that from time to time.  The youth are the closest and most neighborly mission field, in which everyone can be a missionary.  

posted in: From The Shadows

Thought I'd give you an update on our monthly service projects.  Our first project for our high school students fell through as it was a bad weekend for illness and students being out of town.  Instead, my family and one other student and her family went out for dinner - which was a great way to get a better insight into the life of this student.

Our middle school group hosted a Trunk or Treat event on halloween night.  They were joined by some of the high school students and all of them did a good job setting up, making the neighborhood guests feel welcome, guiding them through the church (moved it inside because of the weather), and helped clean up.  Not sure if students were that impacted by this event but it was a fun, non-threatening way to get them started on the idea.

Last Sunday evening, I bought some Little Caesar's $5 gift cards, made up a note stating why were doing this and identifying our church, and took the high school students to a strip mall to hand them out to whomever was leaving one of the stores.  All the students were required to go up to person and say something like "Hi, I'm Ken from Southern Heights and I just want to give you this Little Caersar's gift card.  Merry Christmas."  Even the super shy student managed to do this and enjoyed it!  Afterward, we went to Steak N Shake and discussed the night.  They were surprised that about 1/3 of the people turned them down.  We also had a great discussion about how just about everyone who took the card couldn't believe they were getting something with no strings attached or that we refused any type of donation.  They're now looking forward to our next service projects.

Last night, I bought about 180 candy canes at the dollar store, attached a note that said "Merry Christmas from Southern Heights", and brought our middle school group to the same strip mall.  We divided into teams of 2 or 3 and went to various stores where the students greeted people with a simple "Hi, I'm Ken from Southern Heights. Merry Christmas!" as they handed them a candy cane.  We had talked in advance that some people might not take one, and that helped the students as about 1/4 of the people turned them down.  Once they got into the groove, they were so excited to see the smiles on people's faces and hear their surprised "Thank You".  Some people immediately reached into their pocket for a donation, but the kids were quick to let them know that this was their gift to them and they expected nothing in return.  One clerk from the bookstore we were standing at apparently had made a quick errand to another store and was heading back into the store when one of our young men approached her and said his piece and gave her the candy cane.  The look of pure joy on her face was priceless - and then she gave him a big hug while she thanked him.  I was interested in what his reaction would be to that and when he came back to the group his reaction was "She smells nice!"  Just as we were finishing handing out our candy canes, this clerk came back out with a cup of hot chocolate for this student and told him she was so touched because that was the first time in her life a non-family member had wished her a "Merry Christmas" just because - wanting nothing in return.  Other groups had stories of people who were so touched they also gave them hugs (all hugs were appropriate and leaders were right there for protection).  When we got back to church and shared our stories, I could tell the kids really got the concept of giving of themselves without expecting nothing in return.  We talked about how this student gave 5 seconds of his time and a gift that cost less than a dime, and how that impacted this person's life.  This group is now pumped to do more service projects.

I was amazed at how God used these simple ideas in such a great way.  He is so amazing in what He can do!

Our next project will be joint projects as our youth groups join our community in a community food drive.  We will drag boxes on carts around an "assembly line" where others will pack the boxes.  After we make a few rounds on the assembly line, we will then take several names and bring the food to families.  Seeing a community work together impacts the students, as well as the gratitude of the recipients. 

I'll keep you posted on how our events go.

Thanks so much for the support! One of the many challenges of ministry is breaking traditional models or understanding of church, and what you've said above tells me you understand how to approach the issue. Thanks again!