Every congregation engaging every generation
By Julie Moser (Youth and Children's Missioner)
“Every congregation engaging every generation” - You may have noticed this caption on the diocesan website or resource pages. What a brilliant description of effective ministry in the church. I wish I could claim such a flash of genius as my own invention, but the phrase was actually coined by my friend Dave Wright who is the diocesan youth trainer from South Carolina. It was too good not to steal.
My focus on engaging every generation is of course youth and children since that is the area I am urging churches to consider.
But what does that mean for you and your church?
I have heard statements like, “We don’t divide the age groups - we like to have all ages mixing with one another.” This sounds great however, what this often ends up meaning is that no-one takes responsibility to disciple, engage, encourage, get to know the children and youth in the church. It can and does happen, but sadly it is rare and most of our young people eventually are lost to the world.
So what can you do?
There are many ways you personally can engage the youth and children in your church. Here are just a couple of practical suggestions.
- Engage the children and youth in your church by knowing their names. Say hello to them, ask them how their week is going. As a youth minister this was something I would want adults to do and was so disappointed when this was not the case. However, I myself recently discovered my own shortcomings in this area when I realized I wasn’t doing this for the small children in our church. Parents need churches to welcome their children and youth. On Sunday morning you want the kids and youth getting their parents out of bed to take to them to the place they are known, loved and accepted – their church.
- Engage the children and youth in meaningful conversation. Ask them about their week, ask them whether they like their school. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions of a spiritual nature – what are you learning in Sunday school or youth Bible study? What do you like the most about our church? When I became a Christian I was an older teenager. My little country Anglican church where I first learned the gospel was full of older Christians who took an interest in me. They had a huge impact on my faith simply because they warmly welcomed me week after week and took an interest in who I was.
- Engage the children and youth in your church by serving them. Find ways to serve that will help you get to know the youth and children. You may not feel gifted or confident to be a youth leader, Sunday school or children’s club assistant, however, there is more than one way to peel a mango (my favorite fruit by the way.) For example help cook on a youth camp or provide food for a weekly youth or children’s ministry. Whatever, your gifting and availability may be, seek ways to visibly serve the youth and children to allow you to show care, interest and support.
- Engage the children and youth by supporting the children and youth leaders and volunteers. For those doing the heavy lifting of youth and children’s ministry, support from the wider body is so important to help these ministries succeed. Is the youth minister/leader and children’s minister/leader listed as staff members? Are they prayed for publicly along with elders and those who are ordained? Do you try to bless them the way you might bless other staff with encouraging words or tokens of appreciation? Do you pray for them and tell them that you pray for them?
What a wonderful gift it is to have youth and children in our churches. I am so thankful for all those who have been willing to love and serve them as a response to the gospel message of grace. Let’s make sure that we all do our part in blessing the young generations - engaging them in the faith that we ourselves share.
My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth with a parable;I will utter hidden things, things from of old—things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their descendants;we will tell the next generationthe praiseworthy deedsof the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.