I was sitting on the deck outside the house at a youth summer camp a few years back. It was early in the morning. Over a rise to the west, I heard the soft sounds of guitars, and young people singing. Like a magnet, the music drew me in its direction. I walked to a location where I could identify what was happening.
There, sitting in a small circle, were eight to ten teens. They were singing hymns of praise and worship out near the canoe area. I searched the small group to see who the coordinator was, but I could not find any adults. What I was witnessing was youth ministry in full bloom.
We are committed to youth ministry. Young people need Jesus in their lives as much as anyone. Satan has strategically focused his warfare on youths. We must be more intentional about our vision of youth ministry. At one of our planning meetings, a group of concerned members described what a youth-friendly fellowship would look like. Some of the hallmarks include:
- A wall of love surrounds every youth who comes in contact with us.
- Every congregation will provide a safe and loving environment for youths.
- Every congregation knows its youths by name, and the major events in their lives are joyfully celebrated.
- All age groups, including youths, are integrated into the worship and work of each congregation.
- Every congregation has an active and effective youth ministry with a nursery, a children’s ministry, a teen ministry and a young adults’ ministry. There will be both youth oriented and intergenerational small groups.
- Every region will have a team of gifted youth ministry leaders made up of older teens and college-age and older adults.
- We will be the fellowship preferred by our youths, their families, and their unchurched friends.
- Youths will freely and actively reach out to youths in their schools and communities, introducing them to Jesus and bringing them to a place to grow as Jesus’ disciples.
- Our youths will become stronger in their devotion to Jesus, even as they encounter the hardships of life.
- We will mentor youths who will become pastors and other key ministry leaders in our congregations.
Ultimately, youth ministry will have the look and feel of what I saw early that morning at summer camp. Young people will be ministering, encouraging and loving one another. They will be praying for one another. They will worship together — without a program, without an adult organizing it or telling them what to do. Being filled with the Holy Spirit, they will reach out to one another with love and compassion, and share the gospel message.
Young people are reaching out to their unchurched friends and inviting them to join our happy throng. Young people are becoming more actively involved in their congregations. Young people are ministering to each other, and that is the essence of youth ministry.