Young people are lazy, they are just on their mobile phones, don’t want to take on any responsibility, just celebrate.
That’s a stupid statement.
I’m now more than 20 years in childrens’, youth and young adult ministry. And I have to admit that young people are brilliant volunteers if you get it right!
Yes, you can
10 years ago the 2 brothers Alex and Brett Harris wrote a book: “Yes, you can”. In this book, the two have cleared up the thesis that adolescents are useless in puberty. They told the story about David. David was a sailor on a 19th-century warship. When he was 12, he was given command of a captured ship to bring it to his home port. When the captain of the captured ship refused to obey a 12-year-old, David told him he would be shot and thrown overboard if he showed up on deck with his pistols. The captain decided to stay below deck after all. David brought the ship safe home.
Young people can do far more than society today believes they can do. In our church we have experienced the greatest growth by making young people volunteers
The best example was a boy who came to church very rarely over years. At some point the idea was born to introduce him to the light and technics ministry. He should consider if he could get more atmosphere out of the service with a little light. At that time he was 13. He began to read himself into this topic (although he was not the hero in school otherwise). Little by little he asked if we could buy some lamps. He came in the afternoon and set up the lamps and also got a small light mixer. As time went by, he continued to expand his ministry. Not only did he attend every service, but also all other events, he was the light master! A few months ago he organised all the light stuff in the Cathedral of Speyer for an event with around 3,000 people and a budget of around EUR 500,000.
Trust them, believe in them
Teenagers aren’t lazy. They want to be challenged, they want to be needed, they want responsibility.
Last week a 17-year-old told me that he thinks it’s totally cool in our church because he can help out here and can also play the piano in a youth group. When I asked him what ministry he was doing in his own church (his father was a pastor), he replied soberingly: “Nothing, all tasks are occupied by adults, and this has been forever. You can’t reach it. I’m not needed there. I can’t do anything!”
If you want to reach the next generation, if you want to win young people, give them tasks. And give them some credit. The young light master from above now always tells me the following: “When I ask you if I can prepare any lights for an event, then you always say yes. You don’t even ask what I’m going to do, but trust me that what I’m doing is good and fitting!”
Be honest and clear
And yes, of course there are occasional clashes. Young people sometimes overestimate themselves or their service. Or they sometimes forget that respect for each other and for adults is necessary. Or they take their work more important than the mission to proclaim Jesus. Or, or, or…
Not bad at all: young people don’t like it just as much as any other person when they are reprimanded.
But if you make young people understand that you love them honestly and that you value their work honestly, then you can correct them. And then you should correct them if they did something wrong.
As one of my young volunteers always says: “She wouldn’t correct us if we weren’t important to her.”