There’s an old Sesame Street song that poses the question “Who are the people in your neighborhood?” The simple answer is that “they’re the people that you meet when you’re walking down the street… each day.” I sometimes paraphrase the original question and pose it to myself as an evaluation: “Who are the people in your youth ministry?” In other words, who are the people that are contributing to and being influenced by my congregation’s ministry with youth? In an ideal setting, the answer would be simple: everyone.
One of the most positive trends in youth ministry these days is the recognition that the church’s ministry to youth should not be a separate entity but rather an inclusive part of the church’s overall life and ministry. The ways in which this trend is displayed may vary from congregation to congregation, but the most telling signs are not only the “what” but, more importantly, the “who.” Parents are being challenged to take a greater role in their teens’ spiritual development beginning at home. Volunteers are being asked to develop healthy, mentoring relationships with students outside of the church building. Church members who have no official role in the youth ministry are being encouraged to learn the names of specific youth and pray for them. The youth themselves are being invited to lead in worship, to attend senior adult functions, and to be full participants in the church’s ministry to its community.
Not every member of your congregation needs to teach a youth Bible study or chaperon a mission trip to be considered a part of your youth ministry; however, every member of your congregation should be encouraged to make the difference in the life of a teenager. No act of love is too great or too small when it comes to investing in the holistic development of the youth in our care.