Encouraging the young people in our congregations

We're blessed to work closely with Grow Ministries, our national ministry partner in the Lutheran Church of Australia. Grow does amazing work supporting churches with research, coaching and resources that foster the sharing of faith with children, youth and families. Below is an article from our Grow Ministries colleagues that we hope will inspire and equip you to share faith with others.

A body is made up of many parts, and each of them has its own use. That’s how it is with us. There are many of us, but we each are part of the body of Christ, as well as part of one another.  Romans 12:4-5

When different generations come together in service, relationships begin to form as young and old learn from one another and begin to appreciate each other in the context of growing in faith. Every part of the body, regardless of their age, appearance or skills, has both value and purpose in God’s plan. Our role is to help identify the gifts and talents of each person in our congregation and encourage all generations to be involved in decision making and leadership. 

How do we do this?

How do we help all people build a connection and sense of belonging through leadership and allow people to share their gifts and talents? Perhaps this starts with some new ideas about young peoples’ involvement in our congregations. Ivy Beckwith, in her challenge to rethink children’s ministry, points out:

‘The key to inviting children to use their gifts and talents in the service of the community is being intentional about identifying them and then asking the children to put those gifts to use for the good of the community. Too often we think of children’s ministry as doing something for our children. We need to expand our thinking to see that it is also working with our children and allowing them to minister to the adults. But we need to take the time to think creatively about what it is our children can contribute and then find ways to make that contribution meaningful for them and for the other generations of the community.

Allowing children to serve the church with their gifts and talents cements them to the faith community and gives them a solid base of people who know and love them. This can reap enormous spiritual benefits when the children reach adolescence and young adulthood. These opportunities promote that feeling of belonging to the faith community, which is so important for children’s spiritual growth. And adults grow spiritually when they accept gifts from children and allow children to serve them. It is a reminder of what being a person of faith is all about.’

As congregations we want to encourage…

All generations that they have something to offer

  • Do you share a vision for welcoming and uniting all generations?

Trust in God’s calling and equipping of younger leaders

  • How are the different generations catered for in each of your ministry teams?
  • Do you regularly pray for people of all generations to share their gifts and talents within the congregation?

Young people to be given opportunities to voice how they would like to see events/ministry occur

  • Where are these opportunities for this to happen in your congregation?
  • How are mentors guided to facilitate supporting young people into new roles and positions within the congregation?

The planning of a shared future together

  • Where are their opportunities for leaders of all ages to plan to spend time together spiritually?
  • How could you develop this further? Perhaps studying the bible characteristics of a good leader will be important as you journey together. The example of Jesus, who modelled servant leadership as described in Philippians 2 might be a place to start. Or you might prefer to discuss the Fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23.

Belonging to something bigger is something that God hardwired into each of us. One of the fastest ways to help someone begin to feel like they belong is inviting them to contribute. Children and young people are no different. When a church genuinely creates space for children and young people to find a serving role that uses their gifts and talents, they can truly begin to know they belong.

God has given each of you some special abilities; be sure to use them to help each other, passing on to others God’s many kinds of blessings. 1 Peter 4:10 (TLB)

Rachel Schilling | Vicki Rochow

GUIDING PRINCIPLE #8 – Opportunities are given to discover and express gifts and talents

Excerpts taken from Guiding Principle #8 and Grow Ministries Fact Sheet ‘How to encourage gifts and talents’

Ivy Beckwith (2009) ‘Postmodern Children’s Ministry; Ministry to children in the 21st century’