Young People Are the Future of the Church
I don't want 15, 16, 17, 20 year olds to think of themselves as the "future of the church." Doing so does a few dangerous things:
1) It says that they are absolved from making decisions now because they are the future of the church. Basically, live it up now because you have responsibilities later.
2) It can also create a sense of anxiety. "I am not old enough or wise enough to make decisions or help out now. I wonder if I will ever be."
3) It positions young and old even farther apart than they already are. It communicates to the young people and the old people that there is a great divide and we don't work in the church together. You are the future, that old timer is the past and I am the present. It is my place as a 40, 50, 60 year old to be in charge. Wait your turn.
I think the church should leave these distinctions out altogether. Old timers should bring along middle lifers and young people. Young people should try (I know it can be hard) to include themselves with the other two groups and also include the other two groups with them when possible. Middle lifers should try to learn from and work with the old timers and should also learn from and work with the young people. It is not as simple as age strata. The church is a family and it is also a living being. All the parts should work together and quit segregating itself based on arbitrary factors such as age.*
Let's be honest, we like to exclude younger people in decision making because "they just don't get it." They haven't been hurt by the world as much as us and they still think the world is worth saving--and they think they can help do it. They aren't realistic. Folks, Jesus wasn't realistic. Jesus left his earthly ministry when he was in his early 30s. By our standards, there is no way he could have become "wise" yet.
So what would I say instead of "you are the future of the church? I would tell young people that you are emerging Christians. You are the present and the future of the church. You are learning and working and gaining experience now that will expand your role in the church. You are valuable and viable and integral parts of the church NOW. The church will fail NOW and will fail in the future if you aren't active NOW. Don't wait to get involved. We need your outlook, your optimism, your naivety, your lack of deep rooted cynicism, your sense of wonder, your energy, your view on how the world is ripe for redemption. We need all those things NOW before time and the world erodes them.
*I do think there are times when, due to relevance of subject matter
, you separate due to age- a high school senior may not want to sit in a class for mothers of toddlers where they talk about parenting for example. But that is more due to content relevance.