In this series, I have tried to look at the youth from both practical and conceptual angles, outlining their challenges and expectations in an era of post-modernity, especially as we hope to grow and reform our youth membership strategies at our churches. It appears, however, that all the youth do to churches that neglect their drive(s) is to shock them by leaving them. And the strategic challenge for operating a youth ministry seems to be the simultaneous achievement of excellence, flexible responsiveness, and learning and innovation.
A major share of the factors responsible for attracting youths to Pentecostalism seem to come as a result of a longing – “for relationship, mystery, experience, passion, wonder, creativity, and spontaneity,”as we have seen. Rising scenarios from trying to satisfy these longings have been linked with increasing cases of church razzmatazz, moral decline and a drop-off in discipleship.
Every generation, they say, has its own unique ways and approaches to ministry. Let’s look at the dreams and hopes of the youth in their search for the mysterious – as we intend to nurture and reach young people in the light of our honest Church backdrop. We must understand that keeping the youth in the church and growing them towards Christian adulthood is a serious business. None of it is ever an easy thing to do, especially when we need to checkmate their spiritual growth. Perhaps your youth ministry strategies have recently not been working out or at the verge of collapsing, under the following seven headings, I present not only my thesis, but my conviction: If we must transform the youth and prepare them for the future we must: 1. Reform More; 2. Inform More; 3. Conform More; 4. Collaborate More; 5. Disciple More; 6. Care More; and 7. Love More.
Let’s reform some of the old practices of our founding fathers, knowing that with every new century come new entries of practices. We are not changing our practices per se but redefining it so that it can suit the present conditions of life, making it look a little more contemporaneous. Let’s be people in a postmodern world, not living in a gothic backdrop but becoming of the postmodern life and taking advantage of what it offers to do ministry. Take for instance – the internet. We could effectively apply the use of the internet in so many areas of our ministry. If we must retain our youths in our church: We need to reform. We need to redefine. We need to be contemporaneous. We need to think in a postmodern style. We need to be flexible.
Teach like you’ve never taught. Update yourself with the World Wide Web about the newest information and models for (youth) ministry. We shouldn’t focus more on numerical increase of the youth, but rather we must teach them the Word of God as it is and as it will be. But as we teach, we need to inform them about ways to develop their skills and talents. We need to teach about how to be effective workplace heroes. We need to inform them so they can grow spiritually and physically to become more mature Christian adults in the future and so take on the responsibility of growing the next generation of believers coming after them. If we can inform the youth, teach them what needs to be taught, update them with the right information that will create opportunities for them to succeed, then, there is no limit to the capacity at which our churches can contain the youths. The youth need information because that’s what they feed on. If you want your youths to sing the praise of their church we need to: Teach more. Update more. Feed more. Inform more!
It’s always nourishing and adventurous when we learn how to blend. In my missions class with my favorite lecturer, Ruth Veltkamp, we were taught that for you to be a successful missionary anywhere in the world, the first thing to do is to adapt – thinking in others’ thought patterns so as to make ourselves fit for the needed trust. This is also important in youth ministry. We must share with them and not overlook their cause or passion, but grow together with them as a church, as a community and as a God’s people. There are many ways we can do this, but we have a limited number of pages to write. If we want to get the respect and love of our youths we must: Be in line with them. Empathize with them. Think in their thought patterns. Adapt and adjust for God’s sake!
Collaborate with the youth: Collaborate! Work together with your youths on a common enterprise or project. Collaborate with them and see their dreams come through. As a youth, most of the times when I did the admirable and adventurous things were when people I looked up to gave me “well done” or “good job” kudos. It made me feel important – gave me a goose-bump feeling. This is what every youth wants. They want to see that their church is with them at every step they take to become successful in life.
Collaborate with other churches: Waging a fierce battle against each other, as we see in the fight for dominance among churches, is never the solution. As this fight progresses, the omnipotence of historic Protestantism is collapsing in the face of Pentecostal growth,as we see today. We are still faced with this reality. However, we cannot disciple the youth with a record of dispute. Neither can we groom them alone. We can decide to fight all the wars and forget our future – the youth. I believe the solution shouldn’t be that of belittlement or altercation, but collaboration – churches working together to establish relationships with youths, together bringing them to Christian maturity. Coming together as the Church of Christ and incorporating youthful innovations that will uphold and enlighten the youths’ spiritual orbit, is one way to go for the Nigerian Church.
If we want to build a future generation of God-fearing people we should, as a Church: Network more. Listen more. Tolerate more. The measure we should take ought to be more collaborative than counteractive.
There are many ways we can disciple the youth. Above all what’s important is our ability to connect – all that really matter is relationship. Discipleship “is about loving one another as Jesus loved us. And remember, love goes both ways. Love them and they will love you,” says Andy Goh. Pouring out love is crucial to connect young people but before we love we must first learn to care-more about them. This means trying to understand not only what they are saying but the emotions and meaning behind the words. Be trustworthy. Do what you say you will do so they can trust you. Spend time with them (Mark 3:14). That means doing things at church with them and doing things outside the church with them. You have to allot time for important relationships other than Youth Ministry. Be aware of their readiness for discipleship. Help them be aware of integrity and character issues. Help teenagers develop spiritual disciplines. Model personal Bible study and prayer time. Build in accountability based on relationship and love. Have a mutual accountability. Help them accumulate wisdom for life from the knowledge of the Scriptures. Make a balance of biblical knowledge and practical ways to use it. Teach them to be discerning. Most youth make spontaneous decisions. They do not think about consequences. Help them think through those so they can make good decisions. Always be affirming and encouraging. Be an active listener!
Let’s learn to feel concerned for our youth. Show the youths that you care for them. Show them that you love them. If we truly care for the youth, we ought to give them the voice they need. Integrate their perspective into church functions, planning methodologies together and upgrading. Truly display projects and innovations streaming their roles in the church and society. We need to take young people and their issues seriously. Make them feel you cannot do without them. Go all out with them; raise awareness of their role and importance in urban church development at a time when cities and churches, grappling with a historic urbanization process, appear ill-prepared to provide improved church governance, meaningful representation and innovative social roles for the church and society. Speak for them! Give them a voice! Be their voice! Care more for them! Act more!
Care is dangerously different from love. You can care for someone but not love that person.Caring in a sense can be extrinsic but loving is intrinsic. It is striking to note that one of the things that so differentiates the church from every other religious group is her emphasis on love. Loving no matter how bad it hurts. Christ died because He loved the Church. In whatever new models we develop for the youth, we must realize that they can only grow spiritually as they are loved by the entire body of Christ, not isolated or kept from it. There must be a connection with the church; this is what the youth feeds on for their creativity and spiritual maintenance. Apostle Paul helps us understand what love really is in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
So, if we want to see the best from our youths we need to: Cherish them. Love them. Inspire more. Because it is only when we love that we can be an inspiration to the world.
Jonathan Vandenberg said it all: “As (the) Church we need to re-think our mission to our young people as we travel into the future.” I believe as the Church of Christ and the people of the Word, we have the biblical building blocks to approach the future with confidence and anticipation. What we’ve built over the years with our founding fathers will not slip out of our hands if we love our youth with a little more spring of faith, grace and reform. However we see it, the strict, rigid, demanding attempts to forcefully retain young people in our churches will only lead to young people leaving or not connecting to our programs. It is no gainsaying that young people are actively involved in Pentecostalism whose creativity, spontaneity and relational dimension have been proven the very magic of its appeal. The youth crave for a spirit of acceptance and significance in our churches. If we can come to grips with this truth then we can start HEALING our WOUNDS and making our BODY more attractive and worth craving – for/to the youth. This will be possible when we start reforming, informing and conforming in order to transform.
Blessings to all…
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 Yaconelli, Mike. Community: Jones, Tony, Post Modern Youth Ministry, Grand Rapids; Zondervan, 2001, p.90
 Ibid. p.17-18
 Leonildo Silveira (1996), Why Historic Churches are Declining and Pentecostal Churches are growing in Brazil. In The Power of the Holy Spirit by Dennis Smith and B.F. Gutierrez published by the Presbyterian Church (USA) and AIPRAL/CELEP and translated by Peter Kemmerle.
 Dennis Rogers, Discipling Youths
 Jonathan Vandenberg, Youth Ministry: A Church Foundation or a Phase? REC Focus – Critical Youth and Christian Nurture Issues on the Road to REC Assembly 2005. Reformed Ecumenical Council, Grand Rapids, MI, 2005, p.25