They are principled, gifted, and passionate. What an influence Church Youth have had on our society. From advertising advantages, 30 billion dollars of expendable income, and the creative arts they bring to our society, young people have left their impression on our world. And if the Church wants to be a significant force in our society, we must shape the young people in our midst. Just ask the mythical town of Hamelin.
After a town is infested by rats, the city council had to do something. Nothing worked. They tried construction, noise, poison, and harm to the rats. But, they couldn’t get rid of them. At their lowest point, a musical man came to the council and told them he could fix their problem. He had done it before in many places. After talking with the musician, the town council agreed to pay him $1000. And so they hired the Piper to rid the rats of the town of Hamelin.
Now rid of the rats, the town council decided to go back on their word. Ungrateful of their new found freedom, they decided not to pay the Pied Piper. And because of their ungratefulness, the Piper returned to town with a different tune. And retaliated by using his musical power on the children of Hamelin, leading them away as he had the rats. And the town of Hamelin was without her young people.
Here are 4 principles to help the Church capitalize on the power of Youth.
The Church will become oppressed and lose her voice when Youth are removed or devalued. This generation doesn't want to hear about the past. They want to see it. They want to create it again. And so we must see Youth as valuable and influential or we will miss their undeniable influence. I believe the young people of today will lead The Next Great Awakening in America.
Questions to the Church: If one generation loses its values, where will the next generation get theirs? What are the most important values we must teach our Youth? What is the role of the Church, education, government, and family in raising our Youth? What does the budget of the Church say about our value of the Youth and children of the Church?
Attraction. We cannot lose our Church Kids. Or even what attracts them. Relationship, laughter, joy, spontaneity, and relationship are the things that attract children. The parking lot, the lobby, the hallways, and the ministry centers of the Church should be filled with these things. Lose these in the Church and we lose our children. What is the Church doing to attract and retain young people?
As important as theology is (we'll hit that in a minute), relationship is vital. Learn to discern the many things that can steal away our children. And learn to discern the many things that attract them. What we get them with, we keep them with. Youth are drawn to colors, stories, and sound. Getting and training the right leaders in this crucial ministry to Youth and children is critical to organizational success. Who are the 'Pied Pipers' leading and mentoring our Youth and children?
Questions to the Church: Are we willing to produce a new paint scheme in the Church? Change the décor of the Church? What about signs in the parking lot that are colorful and inviting? Is the language of the pulpit ministry current, fresh, and young? Do we place priority in the training or hiring of Youth and children's leaders? Are you willing to do an exit interview with Youth and children to see how they feel about the Church?
Theology. One of the main reasons Church Kids fall away from the faith is because of a lack of theology in the Church. You can't do Christian without the definition. The culture of the Church doesn't transform people. The scripture of the Church transforms people. You don't fall away from truth. You fall away from deception.
Our society needs theology. The study of God. Bring the bible alive beginning in the pulpit on Sunday morning and extending into every department in the Church. From sermon illustrations, small group curriculum, Youth series, children's programming, and outreach, we must be relevant to young people. Not childish. But childlike. Bible quiz programs and scripture memorization are elementary to Youth and children's ministry. It is much easier (and less costly) to build spiritual Youth and children than it is to fix unspiritual men.
Questions to the Church: When is the last time we used human video, drama, skits, monologues, hands-on involvement, or abstract art and fine art in our pastoral messages? Have you ever tried to place the whole Church on a series at the same time? Even just once a year. Do you have a collaborative team to assist in planning sermons and series for the Church? Include a student or two on that team.
Music. Almost every pop icon started as a Church Kid. Music and worship is presence. And presence changes people. Music is a powerful tool for reaching Youth. The Church must get better at music education and inspiration. Our energy and creativity in music will aid the Church in teaching and inspiring the next generation with the message of Christianity. We cannot escape the presence of music in culture. Sure, we must use varied methods to reach them. But, to miss the power of melody would be a great tragedy. Music is the bridge that reaches into a young persons life. And the gateway for them to reach outward into the lives of their peers.
Music may be the missing link in the Church to not only attracting Youth, but, training and mobilizing Youth. Music is an avenue into and out of the Church. In my travels, I see a variety of methods in the Church. And the one method that is consistently behind by a decade is the music in the Church. Music has unfortunately become the great divide and an uncommon medium between the Church and our culture.
Lessons From Hamelin
We cannot repeat the behavior of the town council of Hamelin. Invest in the things that create a culture for Youth and children. Because if we invest in anything else, there will be no young people to enjoy these other investments. The surest way for the Church to lose her young people and ultimately her future, is to devalue its Youth and children.
The impact of the Church upon the culture and our society is directly related to the impact of Church Kids. We cannot simply retain young people. We must train them for the Kingdom of God.