In recent weeks I've posted several articles on this blog about the challenges churches face in trying to reach young people. One reader responded saying that he felt it was important for churches to work together to better impact this age group. I think he is right on, especially in smaller communities that have a number of smaller churches.
Let's be honest here for a minute. Most of us serve in smaller congregations that will never have the ministries for young people that mega-churches offer. I know of a church that has a minister to Jr. High girls and another one for Sr. High girls as well as other ministers who have primary responsibilities for the boy's ministries. Many of us are lucky to have a volunteer who's willing to work with all our children and youth. We are very limited in what we are able to offer in the way of ministry to young people, but if a number of area churches were willing to work together some of those limitations could be reduced.
What could happen in a small community if four, five, or six churches in the community came together to minister to the young people in that community? It would not be unrealistic to assume that the Baptist church in that community had four young people, the Methodist church had seven young people, the Presbyterian church had three young people, the Nazarene church had twelve young people, and...well you get the idea. Change the denominational labels and the numbers any way you want, but the end result is the same. None of these churches have sufficient numbers of young people for a dynamic youth ministry, but together there are 26 young people, a number that allows for more ministry programming. Perhaps even more important is there is now a group large enough that other young people in the community might be encouraged to attend. Also, with several churches involved there is the potential for stronger leadership in the youth ministry which is likely to also improve the overall ministry of that program.
While those of us of a certain age are fairly well committed to our denominational tribe, most young people could care less about the name of the church. What they are interested in is that people care enough about them to come together to provide a ministry that relates to them and their issues. In such an environment they can be introduced to a God who loves them and wants a relationship with them. They can find answers to some of their most pressing questions and find the hope that so many young people are desperately seeking today.
A bivocational friend of mine served a very small, rural church. He asked other small churches in his local association if any of them would join him in developing a ministry to young people in their community. He was amazed that not one single church was willing. None of them had anything resembling a good youth ministry, but these churches were so afraid of dying that they didn't want to risk losing any young person to another church. As a result, none of them were reaching any youth and still do not to this day.
If we truly believe the Bible to be true in what it teaches, then people without God are lost and condemned to an eternal hell if they die in that state. Is it more important to attempt to rescue young people from that or to remain stubbornly independent and do nothing but sit around and complain about the lack of young people in our churches? I want to encourage the small church leaders who read this blog to approach some other small churches in your communities and see if a coalition of churches can come together to reach out to the young people in your community. Get something started by the first quarter of 2013 and at the end of the year see what kind of impact that ministry has had.