As Church United, we believe a mission to own the lostness, pain and brokenness of our community must include a mission for youth. Without a strong focus on reaching the next generation, we will miss perhaps what could be the greatest domestic missions opportunity in our nation’s history.
Research points to the reality that over one million youth at least nominally in the church today will choose to leave each year for the next three decades. Thirty-five million youth raised in families that call themselves Christians will say they are not by 2050. However, we believe the story is far from over and that a great opportunity awaits.
As God continues to draw churches from across South Florida together to connect, collaborate and celebrate together, the need to focus on youth and next generation leaders is beginning to take center stage. In order to see our vision of doubling the number of committed Christ followers in our region, and together lay the stepping stones for a gospel movement, we must take a fresh approach to youth ministry and youth engagement.
Together we are beginning to imagine and work towards a 21st-century Church that is growing and flourishing because young people are experiencing the Gospel for themselves, reaching their peers, and seeking to be the very hands and feet of Jesus to their friends, neighbors, schools and places of influence.
“The next generation will be running our nation in 20-30 years’ time. Not us. If we don’t labor to captivate their minds with Jesus, they will be captivated by something else and teach the following generation to do the same,” said Gavin Felix, Church Planter in Residence, Spanish River Church.
At the latest quarterly gathering for Church United in Broward, 150 pastors from across the county came together to discuss the strategic and missional opportunity of youth and next generation ministry. Jason Ballard, of Alpha Youth, served as the keynote speaker and then held a special lunch for over 75 area youth pastors where he shared best practices, fielded questions and presented the framework of a paradigm shift for youth engagement.
A key takeaway of our time together centered around the fact that we need the whole Church body to call youth and the next generation into the mission of the Church by living that mission with them. In order to accomplish this, youth pastors must be viewed as critical missional partners and co-labors in seeing God’s kingdom advance in South Florida. The position and title, “youth pastor” needs to not be seen as a “starter career” or stepping stone to church staff advancement, but perhaps one of the most important positions on a church team. Imagine the potential impact the collective Church could make if we decided that together, we are going “all in” on youth and next generation ministry.
A Ministry Army
In the words of Justin Chases, Student Pastor at West Pines Community Church, “What if we moved from seeing young people as a ministry audience to be entertained and kept out of trouble, to treating them like a ministry army that God intends to mobilize for the sake of His kingdom? It would be messy and it would be costly. Young people need a lot of help and they tend to be fragile. The good news is that God loves to display his glory through fragile jars of clay in order to demonstrate that the surpassing power belongs to Him, and Him alone. That makes this next generation the perfect candidates to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.”
By God’s grace, we believe that as the Church continues to unite together for the sake of mission, we will see a powerful collaborative engagement to reach, disciple and deploy the youth of South Florida to spread faith, hope and love throughout our region.
This conversation is only just beginning. To listen to Jason Ballard’s keynote or to learn more about the mission and vision of Church United, please visit churchunited.city. If you’re a local youth pastor or key volunteer that works with youth at your church, please be sure to join the mailing list to stay current with opportunities to connect and collaborate together.
Edwin Copeland serves as the Director of Church United with the National Christian Foundation of South Florida where he works to unify the Church through collaboration and celebration to see faith, hope, and love spread throughout South Florida.