YMI – 2020 & Beyond
THE GREAT COMMISSION:
A YOUTH MOVEMENT?
By YMI President Randy Smith
The Great Twenty First Century Youth Resurgence!
A Local Church Youth Movement – What Could it Look Like?
(Could it lead to a Global Great Commission Youth Movement?)
In Part 1 of “YMI – 2020 & Beyond: The Great Commission-A Youth Movement?” I spoke about the fact that by default the Great Commission, in order to be fulfilled in the 21st Century, must by-in-large become a youth movement. This should not be debatable!
The World is YOUNG, and in the unreached parts of the world, including the 10-40 window, the world is getting younger by the second!
Need I go into the demographics? I don’t think I need to – suffice it to say that there are more than 3 billion youth (ages 10-29) in the world today, and at least 2.3 billion of those do NOT follow Jesus! And that number is growing every hour of every day…
And I hate to report the news, but every day, we are losing the battle, as more youth are born into the world as non-believers than the number of youth who are being converted to faith in Jesus.
It grieves me to say that, but it is true! Even with all the advances in technology and new methods of sharing the gospel, we are losing the battle. And, if you are like me, that is NOT acceptable!
I want to attempt to answer the question:
“What can the church do to initiate and perpetuate such a global youth movement that will help the church of Jesus Christ fulfill the Great Commission?”
If a global evangelistic youth movement is to be born that sweeps across the world, especially the world of the unreached, I sincerely believe it must begin in the local churches of the world! Yes, the churches of North America, South America, Asia, Africa, Europe, and everywhere in between… Then spread to the unengaged and unreached parts of the world!
YOUTH… are the Key! Reaching, discipling the youth of Generation-Z (currently ages 10- 18) and Millennial youth generation (currently ages 19-30) who are taking over the world in record numbers. As generation-Xers (currently ages 36-55) and BABY BOOMERS (currently ages 56- 80) we have had our chance, and we have FAILED to reach the finish line.
Ouch, I know that hurts… but let’s face facts, on our watch, though conversion rates have increased, the overall number of unreached is outpacing the number of conversions worldwide! So, what do we do? How do we pray? Whose turn is it to “take the baton”? —- OUR YOUTH!
“So, where are these resurgent YOUTH who will change the tide of the unreached vs. reached in the world today?
They are RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW in our local churches. They are just waiting like David (exemplifying a Christian youth) was begging Saul (the church of today) to say “OK, go fight Goliath…. and you can use your OWN gifts and talents (sling shot) not our OLD culturally and traditionally paralyzed methodology!”
Too many of the Christian youth in our churches today are hanging out at home, away from the evangelical battlefield, tending sheep, just waiting for the chance to be unleashed, empowered, and encouraged to enter the REAL battle… the battle for men’s souls.
Instead, too often they are in a battle to be the first in line to get pizza or grab the X-box controls at the local church youth group hangout! Or, they are practicing for hours to be part of what is typically called a “youth service” once a quarter or once a year, rather than having an ongoing important role in the church’s weekly ministry responsibilities.
I question the real value of youth services for teens as I believe that many youth feel as if they are simply being put on display and patronized.
I would much rather see the youth involved every week in important ministry roles such as teaching, discipling, advising church elders, conducting personal and corporate evangelism efforts, leading prayer services, leading small groups, participating in and leading ministry teams that apply their gifts and talents to reach and disciple their world (drama teams, music teams, prayer teams, planning teams, sports teams, media teams, etc.).
Try this on a normal Sunday. Call a teenager up to the platform to give the service’s opening or closing prayer! Watch the reaction of the other youth in the church! What a statement to the youth in the church – “Wow, they TRUST a teenager to PRAY in the regular Church service!” This act alone surpasses the impact of a “Youth Service.”
I have discovered in my time as a youth leader in the U.S., in addition to my observation of many youth groups all around the world (more than 35 nations), that this generation of youth, ages 10-29 are Ready to LEAD NOW…
Youth are sick and tired of being relegated to the pathetic mantra of – “Leaders of the church TOMORROW!”
NO, they want to be “Leaders of Today!”
I believe that most Christian youth long to LEAD and FIGHT NOW… and they (David) want us as the “older generation and ‘gatekeepers’” (Saul) to give them PERMISSION to lead. They want us to make them feel NEEDED by the church… not baby-sat by the church! They want the church (and the Great Commission) to be a ministry OF youth and WITH youth, not just a church (and Great Commission) FOR youth and TO youth!
For my entire youth ministry career, I have operated under the assumption that youth C.D.A.! Can Do Anything! And, I believe it now more today than ever. We need to allow them to break out of the Western World’s “adolescent” cultural prison and join the battle… just as “child-warriors” and “child Olympians” and “child-entrepreneurs” are already doing and have been doing since Old Testament times!
We in the church, by surrendering to the adolescent cultural labels and characterizations set by the world of developmental psychology have relegated youth to a static world of watching and waiting for “their time” (meaning, married, educated and mature) before they are given permission and training for “REAL” ministry!
Shame on us as the church of the 20th and 21st centuries!
So, sadly, rather than WAIT for “their time” to lead, far too many (depending on which stats you believe) are LEAVING the church, and sometimes putting their FAITH “on hold,” since they have come to believe that they are NOT NEEDED in the church, and therefore presume that they are NOT NEEDED by God.
As a result, they go where they ARE NEEDED… into the world of their peers that is dominated by “relativism”, “tolerance”, “plurality”, “agnosticism”, “materialism”, and outright distrust for most authority and institutions. They have buried themselves into a world of smartphones, Google, social media, and even political causes, perhaps where they believe they have the only place their voices, opinions, and actions will be respected. AND, this is not just a trickle effect, but rather, according to Barna and other major social research authorities, it has become a MOVEMENT away from the church and more devastating – the Great Commission charge!
I implore church leaders (pastor, youth pastor, elder, parent) –
It is time to reevaluate what is happening to our “church youth groups”.
No, I am not going to jump off into a rampage about what we used to DO, “back in the day”, but I am going to say let’s apply the Biblical principle of ministry (yes, and youth ministry as an obvious derivative) to TODAY and stop allowing church culture and tradition to paralyze our young people.
Please, let us break the chains of historical, traditional, cultural methodology, and release them to step up and take risks as their Biblical teen counterparts have done (Joshua, Isaac, Joseph, Daniel, Shadrack Meshach and Abednego, Esther, Josiah, Jerimiah, Mary, Joseph, all of the apostles, Mark, Timothy, and dozens of others throughout the Bible) when God TRUSTED, CALLED, AND USED them to do great things for Him.
They are waiting! Release them in your church, and around the world to prayerfully facilitate a movement to evangelize our world of 7+ billion souls by the end of the 21st century.
Let’s see what the modern David (today’s youth) can do to take on Goliath (the Lost 2.3 Billion youth in the world today)!
If you want reach out to me about practical first steps and best practices to launch such a movement in your church, contact me at Youthman1@aol.com, or use our Contact Us Page.
Let’s do this! Let’s get serious about church youth ministry! Blessings!