[To read the introductory post on this topic, as much of this advice builds upon and flows from the principles laid out in it, click here.]
Here is the first post on organization: Youth Work 1-A: Organization and the Congregation
And here is the second: Youth Work 1-B: Organization and the Pastor
And third: Youth Work 1-C: Organization and the Family-Parents
6. Should we have youth officers?
I think this is a bad idea. To reemphasize that youth work is to be parent and pastor led, I would quote from my initial post on the principles of youth work:
Parent and Pastor Led– God ordained parents and pastors to shepherd the youth of a congregation, for the sake and in the best interests of the youth. This is not to say that youth leadership will not be developed; the youth of our Youth Group will grow through being involved in Service Projects, Bible Study, and other events. We must remember not to leave the youth to shepherd themselves, but rather look at our duty as a joy, knowing they will soon be caring much more for themselves.
Parents and pastors are called by God to care for, and lead the youth under their charge. The responsibility of overarching leadership ought not rest on the youths’ shoulders. They ought to come always knowing that what is being done for them is a gift. Leadership and responsibility are indeed to be a part of the Christian formation of youth, however, there are better ways to accomplish this than by creating offices and multiplying meetings.
7. What does form godly young Christians?
There is no substitute for direct training in God’s Word, period. If the Word of God is not the heart and soul of a congregation’s youth work, it is a waste of time. Actually, it is worse than nothing because you teach the child that even in the church the Scriptures aren’t all that important. Study of the Scriptures must occupy the central role in youth work. [More to be said on this particular subject in subsequent sections.]
In terms of their fruit of good works flowing from faith and growing into young men and women, a much better way to develop a young person’s character than creating youth officers is to focus on the particular and the specific. What is meant by this is that in the congregation’s youth work, the youth are to be encouraged and exhorted to do what God has already called them to do and live according to their vocation as young men and women in a particular family and congregation. Specifically, they are to obey their parents, love their family, and prepare to be a godly man or woman of God, which means to prepare to be a husband and father or a wife and mother. The congregation does not need to create bureaucratic opportunities for the youth to develop leadership or responsibility apart from what their life at home and at church already entails. To prepare a young man for life in the church, one would not have him serve as a president of a youth board, but rather groom him to be a faithful layman by giving him the opportunity to be an usher with an eye to him becoming an elder one day.
As they grow in knowledge and wisdom, the youth ought to be given appropriate tasks. At church, the youth ought to be involved in service and work that aids their brethren in Christ. While there are a host of examples, two stand out as especially important: one is making sure that the older youth are involved in leading the younger children; and another is getting the youth to know the elder members of the congregation. We have the youth visit shut-ins on occasion and carol at nursing homes, as well as help with VBS and other activities for the younger children.
Just as in a family with caring and pro-active parents who encourage their children to naturally take on more mature roles and tasks as they grow older; a congregation that does not ghettoize and isolate the different age groups, but both integrates and gives age-specific instruction to its youth, will find many ways for youth to grow in wisdom under the guidance of their elders.
Another gift that can be given to the youth is formation through additional time spent with the pastor and godly lay people in their congregation. Mentoring, aside from all the catchy hype surrounding the term, makes sense. It reinforces the good that is primarily ought to be done at home, and provides an additional good example. This modeling by mature Christians is invaluable for how youth are to grow into Christian men and women. At church, and at home, it is imperative for youth to have particular examples that care enough to spend time with them, and whom the youth can look to and know firsthand.
In summation, the youth activities in a congregation are not to be dissimilar to, but flowing out of and reinforcing their life at home and church.