“Doubt has killed more dreams than failure ever did.” Preston Centuolo
From the moment Greater New Jersey’s young people enter the doors of IGNITE, we know the Holy Spirit is present. Something very powerful happens when we come together with the expectation of being fired up.
Our youth had set apart this time; they worked to get there (car washes, bake sales and the such). Some had come from the next town over; others had driven many hours in Friday night traffic. They were geared up.
The exhilaration that filled the crowd gathered at the Wildwood Convention Center for IGNITE left no doubt that God was in our midst. It also reinforced that this generation will raise up a church that will transform the world.
The purpose of this conference is to “ignite” the faith of our youth and young adults. They spent time worshiping, learning, building community and doing mission. This weekend planted seeds of faith for some and helped others mature and grow in their faith journeys.
So how will pastors, youth leaders, and parents continue the good work of IGNITE? How will we equip youth and young adults to be the spiritual leaders the church so desperately needs?
Encourage risk-taking: Encourage students to think and envision life in ways that have never been tried before. GNJ has committed to creating an environment in our congregations for risk-taking and innovation. Have we given our young people the opportunity to add their ideas to the mix?
Endorse new ideas: Offer students the tools and the means to grow their dreams into reality. When I served the local church, I had the youth representative offer a suggestion on revamping the church’s coffee time. Years later, the church points to that change as a transformational moment in the way they do hospitality.
Empower youth in leadership: Place youth in roles where they are leading the congregation. The IGNITE Squad, made up of young adults, brought creative leadership to the weekend. IGNITE’s Got Talent showcased the next generation of worship leaders with youth who sang, danced and read. How are we giving them the freedom to help shape our ministries by using their gifts?
A great place to encourage, endorse and empower our youth and young adults is in a small group setting. Small groups for youth are different than Sunday School or Youth Group. They are an intentional gathering to grow in relationships. They are a safe space to share and pray. They are a place where youth can take on leadership. The youth can plan the agenda and lead the devotions. Small groups are an excellent place to dream. Small groups offer a setting for youth to grapple with the challenges in life and the disappointments in their faith journeys — a place to be vulnerable.
I would challenge you to carve out some time for small group gatherings for the young people in your congregation and see how this might be the spark to fire up your ministry.