Youth are not the future of the church. So often do we hear the mantra in church, "Young people are the future of the church!" I would argue that they're not the church of tomorrow but rather the church of today.
A common misconception of students is that they are not viewed as being an active part of the church body. Instead, they are viewed as children who are in a waiting period of becoming part of the church. It's almost as if adults believe that there is a test of some sorts that a student must take before they're an active part of the body of Christ. Or, sometimes adults believe that students are not part of the church body until they graduate youth.
I would submit that students, whether in elementary, middle, or high school are part of the body of Christ just as much as the 60 year-old who has been in church their whole life.
The Problem With Not Seeing Students as Part of the Church
One of the largest issues with not seeing students as part of the body of Christ is we undermine their ability to make a difference. Adults, hear me. When we don't see young people as part of the church we're communicating to them that they're too young to make a difference. Let me remind you of how old some of the people in the Bible were when God used them.
Mary was around 15-16 when she had Jesus
Timothy was a teenager when he traveled with Paul
David was around 15-16 when he killed Goliath
In 1 Timothy 4:12 Paul writes to Timothy and says,
"Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe."
In this verse Paul was encouraging Timothy to set the example of Christian life to other believers. He wanted Timothy to boldly live out his faith in front of others regardless of his age.
Church, what would happen if instead of seeing our students as "the future of the church", we saw them as part of the church right now. I wonder what would happen if we challenged our students to set the example for others by conducting themselves with God-glorifying speech, actions, love, faith, and purity. What would happen if we challenged students to engage with their lost friends and have gospel conversations, to make disciples. I wonder what kind of spiritual awakening we would see if we raised the bar for our students and challenged them to live boldly for the Lord.
Church, it is time that we raised the bar for our students. While they are the future of the church in the sense that they will one day be pastors, deacons, elders, teachers, etc., they are a part of the church now, and we need to see them as such. It is time we challenge our students to step up to the plate and get involved in the different ministries of the church, whether it be Men/Women on Mission, going to Nicaragua or West Virginia for a mission trip, helping with Awanas, or singing in the choir.
Let's change our perspective, raise the bar of expectations, and challenge our students to live boldly for Jesus. No where in Scripture will you find anything that says young people have to "graduate" before God can use them. Let's not hinder the work of the Holy Spirit in our students.