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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Learning from our Youth

Last Sunday our youth hosted our worship service.  They participated and led every aspect of the morning and it was one big blessing.  The centerpiece of the service was a mini-musical based on the parables from Luke 15 about the lost coin, the lost sheep and the lost son.  They sang beautifully, added their own humorous touches and overwhelmed the congregation with joy and hope. 
Pastor Doug rejoices with the woman who found her lost coin!
Our youth pastor, Chris and our youth leaders deserve a huge round of applause for these things do not take place without committed, dedicated leaders prodding, urging, guiding and inspiring.  It was a great day in the life of Immanuel International Church.As one of our young teens shared a testimony from her own life, I couldn't help but remember the number of youth services I participated in as a kid.  My home church was great about inviting the youth to lead our services and it was always such an inspiration and joy to be given this opportunity.  I often gave the testimony or sermon of the day and it's kind of amazing that all these years later I can see that the seeds of pastoral call were being planted and watered through those early days of participation in the church.  Of course, at the time I really had no idea that I'd end up being a pastor.Who knows.  Maybe one of the teens who participated on Sunday will sense a call to pastoral ministry and lead their own church one day.
I have never believed that youth and children's ministry should function as a separate entity of the church.  They need some special focus and attention, programs geared for where they are in life, but they must also participate in and feel welcomed into the larger worship of the church.  One of the best ways to help them embrace the full worshiping community is to help them discover their gifts and then empower them for ministry.  Our youth are active ushers, coffee servers, scripture readers, Sunday School teachers and helpers, on worship teams and help run our projector on a regular basis. I think it's a mistake to only involve youth on youth Sunday.  Instead, regularly having them participate in our worship service better prepares them to lead on Sundays when highlighting our youth is our main objective and helps them feel like a more integrated part of the entire community.
We have an amazing group of teens and leaders at Immanuel.  I feel so blessed to be part of a church that so fully embraces our children and youth and longs for them to continue to grow in their faith, develop their gifts and learn what it means to be a strong church leader.