In terms of development and maturity in America, age 26 is the new 18. The “age of adolescence” is extending further back, and it’s not uncommon to have 30-year-old teenagers floating around aimlessly, living at home and playing way too many video games.
This delay in growing up is damaging to society as a whole, and for God’s people, it is unacceptable. Yet many youth pastors operate with a philosophy that fuels the problem. As a leader in the church, you are either perpetuating this issue or creating a culture that overcomes it.
The scope of this issue can’t possibly be covered in one blog post. However, I want to suggest a fundamental paradigm shift that needs to become as natural as breathing for youth pastors across our country. Other sectors in society like the family or educational system might get it wrong, but as shepherds in God’s family, we can’t afford to make the same mistake.
Here it is: Give your job away to students. If you are not willing to do this, then you are a part of the problem. Let me explain.
At the church where I serve, our students do just about everything. A student creates all of our videos, which are top quality. One of our students runs all our lighting and stage design, and has done so since he was 15. Another creates all of the logos for our t-shirts, which happen to be some of the coolest shirts you’ll see worn at the local high school.
A senior in high school illustrated an entire children’s book that we’ve written to share Jesus with local refugees. Several others lead worship at our gatherings. Another group planned and executed a massive concert where 300 of their friends and classmates came to celebrate life and creativity together.
We oversee 12 house churches across our county, all of which are 100 percent student-led. Our high school students lead our middle school small groups, and our middle school students lead their campus Bible clubs.
I don’t share these examples to promote our ministry, but to demonstrate how capable young people are when given the chance. Raising up leaders doesn’t happen on accident, and it also doesn’t happen overnight.
From middle school all the way through college, our young people must get in the game of ministry. They must be empowered and equipped to do the work of the Kingdom. As youth pastors and leaders, our primary job is to make sure this happens.
This is not about enabling youth pastors to shed responsibility or work less. It’s quite the opposite. Empowering students to do ministry is much harder and messier than doing it all by yourself. It is a cost you must count, and it’s a journey that doesn’t yield instant results. Discipleship is never a quick fix, but it’s the way of Jesus, and it’s always worth it!
1. How does your ministry facilitate opportunities of empowerment for your students?
2. On the flip side, how does your ministry enable students to remain spectators on the sidelines?
3. How can you give your students some of your job? Start small, but name a few specific opportunities that you should be empowering students to do today.