If you’re reading this right now, at some point in the not so distant past you have asked yourself something like this, “how can I get my students more involved in the main service worship?” Well I’m a youth pastor and I ask myself this question all the time. If we’re honest, sometimes it seems like they just don’t get it or they don’t even care. But I want to assure you they do, or at least some of them. You will have students who want to be involved solely because being in the band is cool, sure, but you will also have those students that have a real growing relationship with Jesus, have been blessed with musical ability, and want to combine those two aspects of their life for the benefit of God’s people.
I want to discuss three aspects that can make up the foundation of getting students involved and interested in your main service.
A TWO-WAY STREET
The church needs youth and the youth need the church. What I mean by this is the following idea. Churches need to invest in their young people so their young people will invest in the church. Now, that sounds self serving and there are more reasons to invest in students, such as spiritual growth, service to the community, making disciples, etc… but that all comes from them being invested in the church. If we don’t invest in our youth, they won’t be as easily convinced to invest in the church.
We also need to realize the issues our students are bringing to the table can be stemming from attitudes on the home front. Does their family go to the main service? What are they hearing at home? Do their parents even go to church? We need to remember to show them grace and work through the issues they may have. You cannot force a student to do something they don’t want to do. That is the quickest way to ensure they will not do it. Don’t make your students invest in church, don’t make them feel bad for not investing, don’t treat them as less than the students who are plugged in. Love them, show them grace, and help them process. If you communicate love for them, and passion and vision for why investing is important, over time they will learn to trust you and God may change their heart.
So back to the church needing youth. Too many churches, like the church I grew up in, cater to the complainers. Who are mostly old, and don’t like much of anything to change. I am strongly convinced that churches need youth and need to welcome change, or they will die. You’re either moving forward or you’re standing still. I’m not saying install lights and fog machines next week, but look at why your students aren’t coming to your main services and only attend youth group. Is it because they have an attitude problem? Most likely. Is it because nothing in your services acknowledge that they even exist. Most likely. If you want your youth to invest in the church, you need to invest in the youth. Maybe that means you throw in some more upbeat music, maybe give them a shout out from the stage when you see them in there, make them feel welcomed and like they are a part of the church. If they don’t feel they belong, they’re gone.
STUDENTS ARE NOT SILOS
As a new youth pastor, I am learning a lot and one thing is this very idea. My ministry is not a silo that exists outside the church. We are part of the larger church as a ministry focused on a particular age group. Just like our college, men’s, women’s, and kids ministries. Each one serves a particular group of people as a supplement to what the church is doing as a whole. When we allow our ministries to become silos apart from our church, we are communicating to our students that they don’t need church, they just need other students, and sometimes that they just need themselves.
Not every student will see it this way or come for these reasons, but when you go to a place that is completely catered toward your tastes, style, stage of life, is full of people you know, it is easy to go there and plug in. There is no challenge in going. Like I said, this may not be true for every student, but by and large it will be. When we don’t encourage them to break out of that and attend somewhere that may be not geared toward their tastes, style, stage of life, and is full of people they don’t know, we don’t teach them that church life can sometimes be uncomfortable. Sure we can say that, teach that, discuss that, but unless we show them that, they won’t get it. We need to teach our students what it means to be a part of the local church.
STUDENTS ARE NOT JUST THE FUTURE OF THE CHURCH – THEY ARE THE CHURCH
Have you heard the phrase “youth are the future of the church”? Have you said it before? I have, and we need to stop saying that. When we say that, we are telling our youth that they are too young to really be part of the church. They’ll matter someday, but just not yet. Remember the silo ministries? This attitude plays into that. We need to adjust the way we view our youth and see them as valuable members of the church right now, not when they grow up. When students don’t feel like they belong they’re what? Gone!
A lot of the attitudes and lack of experience plugging in to the larger church, can keep students out of continued service past graduation. Like I said before, when it’s fun and easy no one minds plugging in and serving. But when it’s uncomfortable and not the most fun, young people tend to pull out. I have both friends and students I pastor that hold the attitude that they don’t want to serve in the main service because they don’t like the songs they’d have to help lead. And that is an attitude we should seek to extinguish amongst our youth. Church is not about them, it’s about Jesus and serving others. Cast that vision, live it out in front of your students and watch God do work.
Stay tuned for Part Two, where we will focus on the practical training of your youth musicians to get them to either your youth band or main service band.