Some time ago I was invited to be the guest speaker at a church for "Youth Day." Most people who know me understand that I have a burden for helping churches reach the next generation, so it made sense that they would invite me to speak on this topic. It was a fine church, with friendly people, good music and a warm fellowship.
But as the service began I noticed there were only three young people present. Since it was "Youth Day" I was a bit surprised, having assumed they would have made some type of special effort to get the youth to come for the emphasis. As the service continued to unfold, I noticed that even though it was "Youth Day," the youth were not scheduled to help lead the worship. Since that is the normal pattern for such a day in a church, this was surprising to me. Other than one young man on the praise team, all the other parts of the service were led by senior adults.
Because I knew a couple of people in the congregation personally, I asked a few questions afterwards and learned that the congregation did not view young people as "mature" enough for leadership. They had a couple of negative experiences in the past where young people did not lead in the way the church wanted, so the church no longer allowed young people to lead. Thus, even on "Youth Day," youth did not lead.
Though I can understand the frustration of dealing with immaturity and have a lot of experience in working with young people who have their own ideas about how things should be done, I just could not grasp why this church would swing the pendulum so far one direction. Even after all this time, I struggle to wrap my mind around the idea that even on "Youth Day" the young people could not lead. I have shared this experience (without mentioning the church's name) with many youth workers in other churches and have been surprised to find out this scenario is far more common than I thought.
If we expect young people to be involved in church, we need to find ways to let them participate in leadership. While it is true that they may bring their own ideas to the table, and some of them will be less mature than we would like, if we do not give them a place at the table, they will not show up at all. And that has very negative long term impact on the future of a congregation.
In short, if we want them to lead, then we must let them lead.