I spoke last night to our high school students at our high school outside gathering before the students break into life groups (I lead a group of tenth grade guys). I always enjoy speaking to teenagers, especially the ones I am honored to pastor. I spoke about the joy of serving others and challenged our high school students to serve and lead us. As I was preparing for my talk, I thought about “youth-led Sundays.”
When I first became a youth pastor, years ago, it was common practice for churches to have “youth-led Sunday” once a year. Basically, every teenager in the church would be assigned to pass out a bulletin, hand people an offering plate, or sing in the choir. One lucky student would be asked to do the welcome and another would close in prayer. “Youth-led Sunday” happened once a year, and only once a year.
Since being a pastor, I have never liked the idea of “youth-led Sunday” – of relegating teenagers to serving just once a year. Instead I want to see teenagers serving consistently. Here is why:
1. The church suffers without the gifts of the youth.
Relegating teenagers serving their church to once a year is really bad stewardship of the gifts the Lord has given them. And the church suffers because their gifts are not enjoyed by the church as a whole. Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, challenged each person in the body of Christ to use the gifts the Lord has given them to “serve others, as the varied grace of God” (I Peter 4:10). God’s grace is distributed to the church through the gifts of all people in the church – including the teenagers. The church benefits from God’s grace distributed through them. To not give teenagers ongoing opportunities to serve their church is to squelch the grace of God distributed through them.
2. The students benefit from serving.
Teenagers won’t go to college and then start practicing their musical, athletic, intellectual, or entrepreneurial gifts. They are practicing them now. And regularly. Why in the world would we wait until they are out of high school to help them start developing the posture of serving? Why would we wait until a later time in their life to help them identify how they can contribute to the mission of the Church? We are responsible to develop the next generation of leaders. And the best way to develop someone is to give them opportunities coupled with encouragement and feedback. Serving and using one’s spiritual gifts must be practiced. The students benefit from having opportunities now, from serving alongside adults who love Jesus, from experiencing the joy of serving, from knowing they are valued now – not in the future.
3. The Lord delights in using youth to lead His people.
If a great move of God is going to occur, it will likely happen through our young people. At least that is true historically. The Lord used young people significantly in the Great Awakening, the revival of 1857, and the Jesus Movement. God who is fully powerful and can do whatever He pleases has chosen to use the humble things of the world to exert His influence (Psalm 8:1-2). God often uses young people, people who are “not yet accomplished or proven” to accomplish His purposes and prove He is God. We must remember that God chose the womb of a teenager to send Jesus into our world and Jesus chose young men as His disciples.
I am so proud of the high school students at our church who are serving the Lord and His people. I think of the guys in my group. Jacob L. serves on our security team. Marcus is on our media team. Last night Jacob S. was rallying guys to serve at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday. Austin is on the tech team in our junior high ministry. It is beautiful to see God working not only in them, but through them.