Facebook Twitter

Churches reaching out to their young members

Christian music helps capture their interest

SHARE Churches reaching out to their young members

When the topic of youths is brought up, church organizations jump at the chance to discuss what they're doing with them.

And rather than single out a specific individual, area leaders almost always discuss them as being part of a larger group, tied to any number of camps, Christian music concerts or youth ministries.

There's a high value placed on youths, high-school age and down, said Casey Clark, outreach coordinator at Salt Lake City's Vineyard Christian Fellowship.

"A lot of times they're referred to as the 'church of tomorrow,' but we believe they are the church of today," Clark said.

Vineyard is a true example of placing "today's church" in the hot seat, so to speak. At least three or four times in the past eight years, church leaders handed the reins to young people and allowed them to run the Sunday services. That includes everything from planning who speaks during the service to giving Communion to even including their own youth band in the mix, a feature they added in one such service a few weeks ago.

"To see that they can do this is amazing. God really moves when something like this happens," Clark said.

Another way God tends to move youths, apparently, is through contemporary Christian music. Last weekend, the Wasatch Christian Music Association provided all the talent for the rock stage at the Ogden City Street Fest, an event that saw youths making up fliers for the concert as well as passing them out.

It was the first year that Christian musicians — including Gideon's Press, Rick Altizer and several local bands — have been contracted for the event, and the music was a big change from some that was played last year. Some of last year's bands were so vulgar, they were asked to stop playing before their sets were finished. This year audiences didn't have to worry about whether lyrics might be inappropriate for family audiences, Wasatch Christian spokeswoman Lisa Rajigah said.

"I've talked to kids who have listened to Christian music that has reached them when nothing else could," Rajigah said, "who have latched on to one Christian artist who has really ministered to them. It's amazing . . . just from going to a concert."

While it may appear that youths are being ignored in many areas, it's becoming more and more apparent that churches are not going to sit back and let them be forgotten.

"We would want to capture the statement of Ecclesiastes in the Bible where, at the end of the book, the sage says, 'Remember your Creator in the ends of your youth.' It's never too early," said David Rowe, Salt Lake Seminary's dean of students.

Jeff Stevenson, a youth minister at Sandy's Good Shepherd Lutheran Church as well as president of the Christian Youth Network, spearheads several events for the young people in his congregation, from coordinating efforts for National Youth Prayer Day to organizing a Spring Fling, summer camps, consistent worship rallies and outreach missions, with teams currently in Kosovo, Mexico and Vietnam.

While other denominations may not have the number of youths he oversees, currently in the neighborhood of 300 or more, the way others reach children is very similar, Stevenson said.

"I would say God is moving in a similar way at our church as he does at the church down the street," Stevenson said.

His reason for working with young people is "the same with people of all ages, which is to teach them to have a relationship with Jesus Christ with the things they come up against," be they school, drugs, alcohol or even cheating on tests.

"I'd like to do nothing else with my life but teach kids about the Lord," Stevenson said.

E-mail: dmoody@desnews.com