How to make your church a home for the youth.
|CN PHOTO: Denise Esther Tan
In order to grow its youth ministry, a church needs to provide a safe haven for the youth, a home they can return to. A home should have three key characteristics, namely stability, safety and sacrifice.
These points were shared by Tan Seow How, senior pastor of Heart of God Church, at the Asia Conference elective, “Dynamic Youth Ministry.” Tan kick-started the elective with a video on the growth of his church. From its humble beginnings of a mere nine people in 1996, HOG has grown to 1,700 people, of which 1,200 are youth.
What is his secret to creating and maintaining a church with over 85 percent of its members under 20 years of age? “The youth feel like this (Heart of God Church) is their home,” he said.
Youths need stability. Tan shared that the average tenure of a youth pastor is 18 months. Most teens are lost through transition periods in the church, for example, when the youth pastor moves on to other roles in church. “Youth ministry is not a stepping stone. It is THE ministry to be in,” Tan stressed. Hence he refers to himself as “a youth pastor who is also a senior pastor.”
Another potential transition is moving from a young cell group to an older cell group. That is why in HOG, there is only one transition, that is, from the children’s church to the teen church. From then on, members of the cell group will grow together.
“They all stay together, and that helps them build very deep relationships,” explained Tan. The members create bonding with one another, giving them a sense of belonging.
To unleash the full potential of youths, one cannot rely on events or programs to build a long-lasting, creative ministry. Instead, one has to create an environment where youths can step out and not be afraid of ridicule. Young people will only show their creativity within a safe environment.
To illustrate the creativity, innovation and dedication of the youths in his church, Tan showed the crowd videos on the works of the youth in his church. A common theme ran throughout the videos: the youth of HOG have a passion for their church. It is a place they love, a place where they can grow, and a place they call “home.”
With stability and safety, sacrifice will naturally follow. Tan gave an example of the sacrifice of one of the youth in his church. Miaow Guan, a teenager, joined the church when he was 16 years old.
In order to give to the church building fund, Miaow Guan took a part-time job at Subway and contributed all his earnings. However, he still felt it was not enough, and hence, he sold his Digivices, a popular collector’s item for teens and gave all the proceeds to the building fund.
What made Miaow Guan give so willingly? It was the love and security given by the members of his cell group. Shortly after he joined the church, his cell group members celebrated his 16th birthday for him. Little did they know that it was the first time in his life that anyone had celebrated his birthday with him.
Other touching stories of young members of the church were shared. “Our church is a home for the youths,” said Garrett Lee, 25, a zone leader in HOG.
Tan aptly summed up, “If you pour out your love for them, they will love God’s house and have your DNA. They will be sons and daughters of God’s home.”