Erton Kohler, South-American Division President

Erton KohIer
SAD Youth Director


Often I have heard people say: "Our young people don't want anything to do with serious involvement," or "Our youth seem to be lost," or "They are too secularized and have lost their interest in things related to God." In many places these words are absolutely true.

Young people are not interested, or they may even be leaving the church. We need to act in order to change the situation. It is interesting though, to see how the youth situation can be negative at one church, and positive at another. Young people are active, interested, and even leading out not only in Youth Ministry, but in the church itself, and they are especially involved in evangelism. Why is there such a difference? Could it be that the reaction of young people may vary from one city or state to another, or does it have to do with the region they live in? If that is the case, why is it that at different churches in the same city, young people present contrasting situations?

We cannot escape the reality that our young people are a result of the way their church considers them. That is why I want to challenge you, dear church elders, to think about how the young people have been treated at your church. If we want to see our young people enthusiastic, involved, and committed, we need to invest in them, believe in them, and love them. They have a tremendous potential that needs to be guided, so that they may channel all of it into God's cause. I get excited every time I participate in a meeting of Personal Ministries leaders, small group leaders, church elders, or leaders of any other area of work in the church, and I ask how many young people are participating. Usually there are many, or they are the majority. This means that they want to work. I know, however, that they could do much more, and that we could involve more young people. What is the secret?

The key words are found in the title above—to involve them! That is when the difference begins to show between churches that have active young people and those where they are discouraged particularly when children are young, when their emotions are defined. They want to feel a sense of "belonging," not of simply being an additional number. They want to feel that they are remembered, loved, accepted, special, and needed. If they feel that the church and its leadership believe in them, are willing to support them, and understand their limitations, they will react positively.

Some churches, innocently deceived, try to win their young people by offering them public shows: youth meetings, rallies, Sabbath morning worship services, and other events. The thought seems contemporary: "They are demanding, so we need to bring them what is best." Great musicians and preachers come in, and the youth enjoy the programs, but they are not involved, or built, and continue to be inactive, uninterested, and secularized.

There is another way. If your church wants to get young programs and activities for the young people, but by them and with them. It does not need to be anything complicated; it's enough to:

1. Invite them to give their opinions in the decision-making of the church;

2. Invite them to preach;

3. Organize special programs where they can share ideas, make plans, and execute them;

4. Bring in fewer "stars" and encourage them to plan their own programs;

5. Organize community projects;

6. Develop outreach projects with them, where they can see the results of the work they have done.

These are just a few ideas. They can be added to and improved upon at church elders meetings, where the sincere concern should be to involve them and save them. One thing is important, however, in implementing any project involving young people: they need to feel that the projects are not mechanical, the kind that imply: "That is the opportunity you were looking for. Make sure you don't waste it." They want to feel they are valued. The leadership needs to show love and honest interest, walking by their side. Young people see beyond the attitudes; they perceive the intentions. They will feel more motivated to participate, to love God and the church When:

1. Parents, leaders, and other adults live what they teach. When this does not happen, a discouraging poison is spilled;

2. The program of the church is prepared with them in mind and becomes attractive to them;

3. There are young people leading out in different areas of church work;

4. The church leadership shows concern for all the aspects of their lives, not only the spiritual;

5. Leaders are concerned more about loving and helping them than about condemning them.

To get young people involved with the church and with things related to God is a huge challenge. I don't believe it is difficult, but it has to go through a partnership between parents, church leaders, and youth leaders. If these three areas are united, with honesty and prayer, following the advice just presented, they will have wonderful surprises. Always remember that in this partnership, there are three words that summarize what needs to be done: appreciation, involvement, and consistency. These three words seasoning the attitude of the church elders, and molded by the power of God, will result in miracles for the salvation of our young people.