by: Miles Woods
I’ve heard it said that we ought to be investing in and building up young people in the church because “they are the future of the church.” I believe the sentiment of that statement is good and true, but I would argue that young people are not merely the future of the church but are a crucial part of the present of the church.
At First Baptist Choctaw, we have a rich heritage of training, equipping, and sending young people to do the work of ministry and missions. Just over the past 15 years, over 30 students who were involved in our church have gone on to work in ministry in their adult lives. This is not random or chance, but a result of systematically training and equipping our students through rich discipleship so that they can be sent out as prepared as possible to do the work of ministry.
One such student is that of Alec Auwen (pictured below). Alec grew up attending First Baptist Church and began to sense a call to vocational Christian ministry as a senior in high school. Through various means of discipleship and hands-on training in the context of the local church, Alec is being prepared through practical ministry experience for what lies ahead. Alec is provided opportunities to preach in a preaching lab setting on Sunday nights, to teach students on Wednesday night, to teach Connect Groups, to sit in on the planning of various church events, and to shadow our ministerial staff in order to get a front-row seat of day-to-day ministry.
As a person who is still early in ministry, I have also appreciated opportunities to learn and grow in an environment where I am constantly encouraged, challenged, given direction, and allowed to fail and make mistakes in a safe space. This type of environment has been crucial in my development as a young minister and I am so grateful for my First Baptist Choctaw family for investing in me in this way.
In the local church, we should be constantly identifying and building up young people who have expressed that they sense a calling to Christian ministry. The question then becomes why and how do we accomplish this?
Why is it so important to encourage young leaders in the church?
Our heartbeat as a church is service, discipleship, and missions. Expressions of these practices in the local church is our way of accomplishing our church’s mission of fulfilling the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20) through the Great Commandment (Matt. 22:36-40) and we believe that believers of all ages have a part to play in this. We want young people to be in on this process through active participation in ministry in meaningful ways. Generally speaking, young people called to ministry will eventually receive theological training through attending Bible college and/or seminary, but no amount of classroom training can ever replace the practical ministry training and experience received within the local church.
With classroom experience only, young church leaders have the tendency to be more academically minded and (perhaps unknowingly) neglect the pastoral responsibilities of a minister. Through providing vehicles and opportunities for young people to serve the church in ways that are beneficial to both parties, we are able to encourage our young people early on to think pastorally about practical issues that may arise within the church.
In short, inviting young people in to actually do the work of ministry helps form and shape their understanding of the mission of the church while allowing them to gain invaluable experience.
What are ways that we can support these young people who have expressed a calling to ministry and missions?
Ephesians 6:18 encourages believers to pray “at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” for “all the saints.” We should be constantly lifting up young people in prayer within our church body who are called to ministry that God would continue to be their source for direction and satisfaction as they prepare to serve Him. They are part of the church body now, and as such, we should be continually praying for them.
One way to do this regularly is to create a prayer list of young people who have discerned a call to ministry and pray for them specifically and often. As you pray specific prayers for these young people, check on them periodically and develop a relationship with them.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 says “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” Sometimes, a genuine word of encouragement goes much farther than we ever intended for it to go. Love on these young men and women who are pursuing God’s calling for their life as a way to build up the body of Christ.
The culture in which we live in today is highly hostile towards things of Christianity. Young people will consistently hear that their faith is pointless, bigoted, and/or backwards. In the midst of hostility toward Christianity that each of them hear regularly, it is crucial that older saints within the church help to speak life into young people who sense a call to ministry on their lives.
Support the Vehicles of Training, Equipping, and Sending
The process of training, equipping, and sending can be summarized in our church’s methodology for discipleship: Gospel, Grow, Go. The gospel, being foundational to our understanding of God and ourselves and others, first takes root in our hearts and grounds us in all that we say, think, and do. Over time, growth happens as we delve into Scripture in community and relationship with one another through vehicles such as Connect Groups and Community Groups and One on One with God. As we are continually built up and made stronger in our faith through various means of discipleship, we are equipped to be sent out -- to go.
We should be the biggest supporters of church programs that train, equip, and send our people because trained, equipped, and sent people have an impact for the gospel. Trained, equipped, and sent people live lives on mission for the kingdom of God. At First Baptist Choctaw, a major way that you can support this process of raising young leaders every week is through your generous giving.
It is an exciting time in our church as we continue to raise up the next generation of leaders as crucial parts of the church today. Pray that God would reveal to you how you can be an encouragement to a young person preparing for a life of ministry and service to the Lord.
P.S. - do you have a story to tell? Contact the FBC Choctaw Story Team to share your story!