Recently, someone (who doesn’t go to my church and I don’t know well) asked me what my thoughts were concerning the roles of “youth and children” in churches. They even went as far as to imply that young people should “just sit on the sidelines until their time came.” As someone who has worked with youth for a just shy of a decade now…wait, what? Did I just type that? Wow. Time flies. Anyway, back on track.
I believe that it is so important that we understand and recognize that the young people in our churches are an important and vital part of the Body of Christ. (Just as any true believer is a vital and important part of the whole.)
We can be certain that children and teens can truly be a part of the family of God (have a personal faith in Jesus as savior) because of passages like Acts 11:14, 16:31-32, and 1 Corinthians 7:14. Additionally, Jesus values, loves, and accepts children in Matthew 19:14 when He says, “let the children come to me.”
It can also be surmised that a majority, or at least some, of the disciples, were in their teen years. We find evidence of this in Matthew 17:24-27 where both Jesus and Peter pay a temple tax, but the others are exempt from this tax because of their age. Many Jewish teenagers and young men would follow a Rabbi, learning from him and studying at his feet. This tradition is consistent with what we know about the disciples.
Another example of a young person having an active role in the church would be Timothy. Paul writes to Timothy, who was a young pastor, in the books of 1&2 Timothy. We know that Timothy was fairly young because in 1 Timothy 4:12 Paul writes, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” This tells us that although Timothy was still fairly young, many presume in his late teens, he still had an important role in the leadership of the church.
With all of these examples in mind, we need to remember that the church is made up of people of all ages, including children and teens. 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 tells us that there is, “one body, but many parts.”
The focus of this passage is that each and every member of the Body of Christ is important and has a role to fulfill.
This, of course, includes children and teens. Since young people are a part of the Body of Christ part of their role, just like the rest of the Body, would be to encourage, pray for, and love one another.
Ephesians 4:1-3 urges us all to, “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Additionally, Ephesians gives special instruction to people in particular ages and roles. Chapter 6:1 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.”
And, Paul’s instruction to Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:1 is a good and helpful reminder for anyone as well, particularly teens and young adults. “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.”
From all of these passages, I think we can safely produce a few principles regarding the roles of young people in the church.
- To be a fully-functioning disciple of Christ.
- To learn from those older than them.
- To respect those older than them.
- To encourage others regardless of age.
- To pray for others regardless of age.
- To share the Good News of the Gospel with others regardless of age.
Notice anything about those roles?
They seem to be applicable to any believer of any age.
Encourage one another, love one another, serve one another.