Youth ministry is full of cliches. Phrases like “no purple, bring a friend, and be intentional” have been extremely overused and have become the defining characteristics of any traditional youth ministry. While they definitely carry some weight these phrases are overused by literally every youth pastor ever.
Another cliche that I hear all the time is “our students are the future of our Church.” Usually this saying comes after either a great fall retreat or a crazy night filled with Mountain Dew, Doritos, and countless games of dodgeball. But honestly, I disagree with this cliche. I actually think it reduces our students to something they are not, and to me people who view our students in this way have it all wrong.
You see, I don’t want my students to hear things like this because whether intentionally or not it makes our students view themselves as a “work in progress that may eventually be usable.” Time and time again I have spoken with students who don’t believe they have reached a level of spiritual maturity that will allow them to be viewed as “Christians” but rather as “sinners who are slowly becoming more lovable in the eyes of God.”
Correct me if I’m wrong but the Lord began using the murderer Saul almost immediately after his conversion in the book of Acts. Not only that but the Lord used Paul to spread the Gospel exponentially more than He has used all the uppity religious jerks throughout history combined. Not only that but Paul was also responsible for teaching and sending the young boy Timothy to be a leader in the Christian Church at an extremely young age.
Teenagers are not the future of the Church, they are the present of our Church. They are tasked with the same commission as older Christians to “go and make disciples.” Teenagers should be valued and recognized as massive tools in the Kingdom of God because they bring a lot to the table in regards to spreading the Gospel of Jesus to our world!
In my time in youth ministry I have seen greater love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, and evangelistic excitement within the teenagers I lead than in their parents. Teenagers understand the necessity of Jesus and they understand that spreading the Gospel is an extremely urgent task to accomplish. Most importantly, teenagers are setting an example that we would all be wise to follow!
Stop making it sound like students cannot be used in their current spiritual maturity (or immaturity). Let your students know that the burden of hope lies on their shoulders because in the Kingdom of God they have just as much to offer to a broken world as their “religiously educated elders” who have lost their sense of missiology and urgency to introduce the unsaved world to the Savior who loves them.
Teenagers are not the future of the Church. They are the Church.