When we think of youth leaders leading in Youth Fellowship (YF) we first need to ask ourselves this question: what is the youth fellowship? The YF is a ministry of the local church; the YF is not in itself the church. Although it is not the church it does play a very important part in the ministering of the youths in the church. Youths are the future of the church, and how youths are guided and taught is very important; and this is especially so in light of the struggles youths would face in the world today. Thus the proper leading of the youths in the YF is extremely important. However, this is now a concern that I have for the YF. Every year we would appoint leaders who are spiritually matured and show good spiritual leadership qualities to lead the YF. There is nothing wrong in that, but the concern arises when these leaders place on themselves the burden to minister to the spiritual needs of the youths and thus, carry a burden they are not ready to carry.
Is it wise for youths to lead youths? When we consider youthfulness, we are not thinking about the age of a person per se. The more needful question to ask is whether it is God’s design to have youths to take full care of youths. In what I have experienced with the YF in Truth BPC thus far, the leaders, when appointed to take up leadership positions, are often overwhelmed by what they see as their responsibilities. Youth leaders would often have to encourage other youths to attend YF regularly; counsel them when they face problems in school or work; rebuke and correct when they fall into sin; teach them by conducting Bible Studies; determine the spiritual needs of the youths and think of how they can cater to these needs. Essentially, youth leaders are essentially playing the role of the pastor, except they do not preach, conduct the Lord’s Supper and baptism. Furthermore, sometimes we forget that these youth leaders are also youths themselves who may be the more spiritually matured than others in the YF at that point in time but may or may not be spiritually matured enough to guide other youths. This could be one reason why some youths are not keen to be part of the leadership of the YF (which is known as the Executive Committee) – they are overwhelmed by what is expected of them and what they think they have to do. When they think they cannot carry such a burden they decide not to serve in the Committee. It is therefore most important to remember that the YF is not the local church, and should not function like a church within a church; it is a ministry of the church.
Leaders of the YF should therefore always lead in this light. Since the YF is a ministry of the church, it is the church’s responsibility and duty to appoint leaders – leaders of the church whom God has appointed to lead the church – to lead the YF, which is a ministry of the church as well. Youths should not be given the responsibility to bear a burden they are not ready to bear. Do youths have the same level of spiritual maturity as the leaders of the church? The answer is no; if they do, they should be appointed as leaders of the church immediately. Thus, I believe that leaders of the church must be more involved in the spiritual leading and guiding of the YF. In this present set-up where a session member is involved, and together with someone who is trained and prepared for the full time ministry, that there may not be proper guidance from more mature Christians is not a concern. It is still important to remember though that the YF is not a church within a church and the youth leaders should not overwhelm themselves by thinking they have to deal with all the spiritual needs of the YF on their own. The church must be involved in the ministry of the YF.
Having said that, youths are often zealous and enthusiastic people. They are full of energy, and this energy can be channeled for the Lord’s use. Youths leaders are also important as they can identify with the other youths they are leading. This is why we also have youth leaders in the YF. Serving as leaders is an area of service. You want them to be nurtured for future ministry. At the same time, you do not want to have adult leaders always running everything in the YF until the youths become too dependent on them. Every youth must be active in service, and so this would mean that some youths should serve by leading in the YF. There must be a balance: while youth leaders should not overwhelm themselves with what they are not ready for, they should also use the gifts God has endowed upon them in the YF and for some this would include leading in the YF. What is then expected of the youth leaders? What is their role? They are primarily to be examples for other youths. The more matured Christian should always be helping the younger ones who need more guidance. What better way to do this than by first being an example to them? This would include sharing their own personal experience and struggles with others. Should youths therefore serve in the leading of the YF? Yes, they should, but they must understand that they are also learning and growing together with the rest of the fellowship group.
Youth leaders ought to be involved in the YF in many ways. They are responsible for the setting of the theme, invitation of speakers, the organising of activities and sometimes even leading in Bible studies. But the most important role they have to fulfill is to be an example of spiritual growth in the YF. While they have these roles in the fellowship, the other equally important role they have to fulfill is to learn how to lead from God’s appointed leaders of the Church. Leaders of the church must therefore be always involved in the ministry of the YF in an active and direct way.
I would close by encouraging youths to “Serve the LORD with gladness:…” (Psalm 100:2). In whatever role you play in the YF, serve the Lord, and do so joyfully.
(Written by Pr. Joshua Yong)