FIRST-PERSON: Let them lead -- now
NORTHBOROUGH, Mass. (BP) -- Faith Community Church started with three families around my kitchen table in Barre, Vt., a number of years ago. From the very beginning we were a church that valued young people.
While some churches would refer to their youth as "the church of tomorrow" we were busy helping them be the "church of today."
I fondly recall one Sunday when the young people were leading worship. They were still growing in their abilities, and their music was much edgier than the congregation was used to. But the leadership team wanted them to be involved, so we let them lead.
On that particular Sunday, three rows of young adults were in their customary section near the back of the church. The youth praise team was singing the choral selection which the congregation typically did not join in singing. As the youth praise team sang, suddenly those three rows of young people spontaneously rose to their feet and joined in singing the song with an enthusiasm they had never shown in church before.
A wave of the Spirit flowed across the room, and the whole nature of the worship experience changed. For the first time, the church saw the power of young people actually leading and not just going through the motions. That particular group of young people has never been the same since.
Many churches hold young people back, assuming they will be ready to lead at some point in the future as they keep growing in maturity. While church leaders mean well when they take this approach, what they are actually communicating to the next generation is that young people have only minimal value to the church.
Young adults hear that message loud and clear and often decide that if they are not valued at church, they will go somewhere that does value them. Churches that do not value young people as the church of today should not be surprised when young people are not around tomorrow. If churches want to attract younger generations, they have to begin to let them lead now.
When we let them lead, they draw their peers into the church as well. The apostle Paul's exhortation to Timothy readily applies to young adults today: "Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity" (1 Timothy 4:12 NIV).
Churches that help the next generation live out Paul's admonition will have no problem reaching young people.