Updated: Feb 10
Today, we have a very different church culture then we had 30, 20, maybe even 10 years ago.
As a man who will be turning 30 years old this year, I can confidently say that I’ve seen both sides of the modern/traditional debate, and even though this post is not about (what seems to be) the everlasting argument between both, I have seen pros and cons for each way of thinking.
I would like to highlight a negative that I have seen in many churches throughout most of my life:
A lack of focus and trust in youth.
When I was 10 years old, I dreamed of being part of the Worship Team, but I did not know how to play the guitar yet. I quickly realized that I could associate myself with the group and the general environment by simply helping them.
Some youth today may have just missed this VERY IMPORTANT ministry, but I became the overhead projector assistant!
I would help prepare the transparency film paper and would change it out during praise and worship.
I felt so useful, and the congregation supported and helped me in a great way!
The congregations support and love gave me confidence to pursue more responsibility in my church.
From then on, I went from overhead projector assistant to computer/media assistant, sound tech helper, backup bass/guitarist, photographer, videographer, Youth P & W lead, etc.
I am who I am today because of the help and support I received from church members and peers.
But let’s tackle a problem that has faced many youth in churches : the lack of focus and trust in youth.
My short life story above may be all peachy-keen, but I faced A LOT of issues each step of the way.
At 12, I was put down in front of a whole youth group for my lack of computer knowledge. I was told that I could never help in church because I’m “just a dumb kid”.
At 15, a worship leader stopped an entire church gathering to show everyone in attendance, just how bad my guitar playing was during my “try out” for praise and worship. The praise and worship group laughed in my face.
At 16, I was told that my worship wasn’t sincere because I didn’t “move around enough”. At that point in my life, I had random severe vertigo from an inner ear issue that has plagued me my entire life. I am also an introvert and have a unique way of worshipping.
At 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, etc. I was told that I was too young to lead or take a leadership role in a ministry. I’m 29 (about to be 30 now) I still hear it to this day. I never actively wanted leadership, but nonetheless, age should not be a factor.
I had many more issues throughout my youth, but I got through it, and even though some of these situations still hurt to this day, I had a wonderful family, group of friends and discipleship partners that spoke to me and encouraged me to keep going.
The same can’t be said for all youth though.
Adolescence is an important developmental milestone in a person’s life. It’s at this point in life that teens develop a sense of self and personal identity. Success can lead to an ability to stay true to yourself, while failure can result in loneliness and isolation.
Here you might be saying to yourself, “They have a choice on whether they want to dedicate their lives to the Lord, and if they truly love God they wouldn’t be phased by criticism” or you might be saying, “I chose God, and my life was a lot tougher back then!”.
I would like to point out a key word in both hypothetical quotes, CHOICE.
God does not force us to follow Him, we must choose to follow Him.
The devil knows this, he wants us to choose a life in sin.
He places doubt, pain, and sadness in our hearts by way of unresolved issues.
He uses our eagerness to grow to make us vulnerable in the face of criticism.
“But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:3
Remember, youth are in a totally different state of mind.
We can’t put down youth just because “he/she is young! They can take it!”
Your words and actions can create a wound in this young person that can take a lifetime to heal.
Criticism and discipleship are not the same thing!
I’ve met troubled youth that were pushed aside for being difficult, but once layers were pealed back you could see a person who was silenced by years of abuse, abandonment, hatred, and so much more.
Being young doesn’t make a person stubborn, rude, or difficult. But putting these people down can continue to make them this way.
Lately, we’ve seen a growth of “modern” churches.
Modern churches tend to focus more on praise and worship with shorter messages, invest in all the new technology, and they tend to have a younger crowd.
Even though they have garnered a lot of criticism over the years, we have seen growth in these churches’ youth groups.
I personally believe the “modern” church promotes youth inspired ideas.
They tend to have younger folks because they provide a channel for younger members to help and lead, as opposed to the traditional church that prefers to trust in seniority. (This is not an endorsement or criticism, just an observation)
God’s word is everlasting, and He is unchanged throughout time, but it does not mean that we can’t adapt with new ideas and innovations.
We must allow youth to have a voice in church and we must learn how to correct with love and compassion.
We must teach and not criticize, bring them closer and not push away, and we must pray with them and support them through the tough moments. Youth do have tough moments!
Youth go through tough times, just like me and you!
Youth want to worship,they want to help, and they want to be heard.
We are all made to worship in unity, every breath created by our Lord was made to praise Him! (Psalm 150:6)
God is a God of inclusion with a special place in His heart for youth.
Youth can be examples! And when we support them, they grow and become leaders!
Some of our heroes started their journeys as youth! Ruth, David, Esther, Joseph, Miriam, Samuel, Mary, Timothy! All started young, all made a huge impact in the world, and were all flawed.
Most youth are just eager to learn and help and they can be examples for your life and mine (1Timothy 4:12)
In today’s world, we need to support each other because the attack on our faith has been stronger than ever. People of all ages need to band together and work in harmony.
We all go through adolescence. Take what you have learned during your adolescence and prepare the next generation for success!