Colleagues who specialize in youth ministry assure me that any church determined to reach their children and youth can make a real difference, not by producing ever more sensational spectator programming, but by involving the whole church, especially the youth, in meaningful ministry activities.
Here are some great ideas for youth ministry and witnessing which can be implemented within the local congregation. You may wish to contextualize them for your specific situation, but the basic principles will enhance your ministry to youth.
Cross-cultural youth ministry. Each summer the Adventist Youth of the New Jersey (USA) conference coordinate various recreational events for youth and young adults which give the churches opportunity to invite guests and to promote wholesome activities. Because of wide cultural diversity both in society and the conference's churches, these activities expose different cultures to new experiences and recreational activities.
Working to win. La Sierra University's SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise) recently achieved first runner-up status in a national competition judged by executives from North America's Fortune 500 companies. With just over 20 members, La Sierra's SIFE group racked up more than 5,000 hours in community service and business education projects including "welfare to work" programs, a cow bank in India, summer day camps, and cottage industries with school-age youngsters learning the merits of entrepreneurial efforts.
Handwritten Scriptures. There was no end to the excitement as 3,794 Brazilian youth wrote out by hand the entire Bible in just 25 minutes. Each young person had memorized a Bible passage and inscribed it on a three-kilometer long piece of paper along the waterfront boulevard of Florianpolis at the site of a historic and well known bridge designed by the renowned architect, David Steinman. State and city government officials participated as they saluted the emphasis on bridging between heaven and earth with Jesus, the ultimate bridge builder.
Evangelistic plans include kids. When the members at Jallandhar (India) learned they would host a series of public evangelistic meetings with guests from Oregon (USA), they included up to 800 children who attended special meetings designed to introduce them to the Bible by enacting great Scriptural themes. Youngsters were dressed as Bible characters to act out the stories that were told and translated into Punjabi for those who did not understand English. The evangelistic team, led by Pastor Ken Crawford and his wife, Colleen, brought a small present for each child who regularly attended and thus encouraged prompt arrival and active participation.
Joy of water. Twenty-three youth ambassadors from various parts of Australia promoted the work of ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency) during the past year by creating features such as "Kick the Cycle" poverty-awareness programs for local high schools, distributing newsletters, or speaking to Rotary Clubs. Top winners included Avondale College student, Peter Maxwell who visited a village in Thailand where the residents benefit from the new ADRA well which provides fresh water.
BLAfishing for Christ. Desiring to reach young professionals working in the Washington, DC area, a group of BLA (Bored Lay Adventist) youth provides social activities, community service opportunities, discussion group events, and project involvement for young adults in the metropolitan area. One of the BLA club founders says "this is the perfect midpoint between secular and church environment.
Real as life Sabbath School. Kids who attend Russ and Floss Boyer's classroom in Lansdale, Pennsylvania (USA) discover they are walking into Noah's Ark, the Garden of Eden, or other Biblical stories brought to life by careful program planning and decorative materials.
Youth in real-life ministry. The 1000 Missionary Movement training program (Philippines) literally lives up to its title by preparing class after class of youngsters with a vision to give themselves in specific mission assignments. These assignments are sometimes in unentered and challenging locations or even in great metropolitan areas where churches may exist, but the population remains virtually unentered. Graduates impact their target society by involving themselves both in the life of the local culture as well as direct proclamation of the message.
Try challenging your young people to envision and accomplish great things for God. They will benefit both your local congregation as well as those who receive their ministry. But the greatest impact of all will be in strengthening their own commitment to Jesus.