By Kristen Koger
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a teenager’s brain is as big, fast and smart as an adult brain, but the brain is not fully formed until the early 20’s.
This, said David Burroughs, is an opportunity to capitalize on a wonderful opportunity with our youth (those between 12-25 years of age). Youth are wired to take risks, which can be a positive thing.
Burroughs, who is president of Passport, Inc., said that he believes that this is all part of God’s timing. “The combination of bodies and minds of young people, mixed with their location in life, is a perfect storm that more churches should be capitalizing on.” In his workshop during the 2015 CBF General Assembly in Dallas, “Teenagers Engaging the Church,” Burroughs gave four reasons why churches should be engaging teens in more opportunities and leadership.
First: youth are full of energy. If you find something that youth can get excited and passionate about, they will pour all their energy into that. Because of their brain development, youth are thinking the same as adults, but are also a little more willing to dream big and take chances. What are some things youth in your congregation can get excited about? Or things they can dream about and run with?
Second: youth are not tied down. For the average, suburban, middle class youth, there is a low level of responsibility outside of the home while they are under the age of 16. “They are poor, but powerful,” says Burroughs. They aren’t necessarily distracted by full-time jobs, children or debt yet. This gives them the opportunity to spend time and energy on those things that give them passion. What are some creative ways your congregation can capitalize on the “lack of responsibility” your youth have, and find ways to give them an outlet that allows them to combine creativity and responsibility?
Third: youth are tomorrow shapers. History has shown that the decisions and dreams of the current generation play a pivotal role for tomorrow. Burroughs’ generation realized that we needed to start caring for our environment more. Now, almost anywhere you go you see trash cans as well as recycling bins. What are the dreams your youth have today that you can start inspiring to change tomorrow?
Finally: youth are connected. Each generation of youth is more connected than the generation before them. More connected to each other, to those around them, to the world. We live in a world of viral videos and YouTube sensations, hashtags and trend-breakers. It doesn’t take much for new ideas to catch on overnight. How can we as the Church empower our youth to realize that they can make a positive difference in the world? What can your youth do to make a difference in your community?
Burroughs believes that the churches that will be alive and thriving 15 years from now will be the ones that are willing to take risks on the risk takers. One suggestion he provided was for your church to have a young person (someone between the ages of 15-25) on every committee in the church- from finance to flowers, personnel to property, from mission to media.
Your church wants intergenerational opportunities? How about starting with committee meetings! Allow your young people to have a voice! Invest in them while they are still being shaped and formed (remember the brain research?) and taking the risk on the risk-takers will be worth the reward.
Kristen Koger currently serves as the Pastoral Resident at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Richmond, Va. She graduated in May 2015 with her M.Div. from the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, where she was a CBF Leadership Scholar.