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Reaching out to youth
Rev. Rich Warnecke, vice chairman of the Commission on Youth and Family Ministry and pastor at Christ, Pewaukee, Wis., has worked with youth for a large portion of his ministry and has served on this commission for well over a decade. He offered some insights into how to better minister to today’s youth.
What is Youth Ministry?
“Youth ministry is really something that starts way before our children become high school students. It’s recognizing that we need to reach out and work to develop and serve these young souls from when they enter into this world – even before they come into this world as we minister to their families.
“It’s the concept of recognizing that youth have abilities, talents, attitudes, and energy, and we must value that, include all youth of all ages, empower them in our ministry as a congregation and as a church body and engage them, especially as they get older and develop their talents and make them a viable part of our ministry – not just in the future, but also today.”
How do you minister to youth?
“It’s necessary to continue ministering to all our young people—before they get to grade school, right through grade school, middle school, high school. We need to make sure we are teaching them and encouraging parents to teach them, developing materials that our churches and parents can use to equip our children to be all that God empowers them to be.
“As our children grow older, ministry takes on a more challenging perspective. Anyone involved in high school ministry needs a tremendous amount of dedication and patience, because we are preparing these young adults for the day they will live their Christian lives apart from those who supported and raised them to live for Christ on a daily basis.
“We need to continue to develop opportunities to involve them to use their talents in service, and to help them see that church is not just something you attend, but church is something we are, that we do, and that we live. It’s a challenging task to help our youth see themselves as the church of today, not just of tomorrow.”
What can the church do?
“God has given us the opportunity to hold His Word on high and make sure we are teaching the truth of God’s Word to all entities, to every culture, to every generation, to every demographic that we can.
“Even without an administrator, our commission will continue to encourage our district representatives to be more proactive in assisting our districts’ congregations in whatever ways we possibly can. We can foster creativity in family and youth ministry on a local level through rallies, workshops, and some development of ministry materials. But our main role will be help offer a platform so that ministry ideas can be shared. This is what so many of our congregations and leaders are often looking for.”
“Congregations have to be more proactive in understanding the people they’re serving. Are they getting the training that they need to help them better serve their families? Are their families getting the training that they need to make sure their children are versed in God’s Word? Are we helping parents to be all that God has empowered them to be to prepare their children for the day they will be leading their own families in service to God?”
What can the family do?
“The biggest thing a family can do is be more scripturally grounded, to make sure church is not something we do on Sunday, but that church is something we do every day at home. Ask the Lord for patience, for guidance from his Word and for encouragement from our brothers and sisters as how to serve our children with our Lord’s love. Look for role models. Humbly offer yourselves as role models to other families.
What are the challenges of ministering to youth?
“That age group is so inundated with so many different things they can get involved in that it actually drives parents and families away from the church. There is not enough time in the day to include everything. That’s often when church and God’s Word is prioritized as least important on our daily calendars.
“We need to continue to create opportunities to engage students in God’s Word, but also in areas in which students may have interest. We need to train leaders to love their students, to listen to their students, to learn with and alongside their students.
“I think that’s the biggest challenge today – not only to offer programs centered around God’s Word, but programs that excel in such a way that they allow each student to freely react and inter-react with their peers, and dream of ways they can live and serve our Lord and each other not only in the future, but today.
“Congregations need to recognize that our children are living in the community, so why not prepare our children to humbly, but boldly live in the freedom Christ has won for us today and in the future without forfeiting their status as God’s children! ”