Some of you read the title of today's post and went, "Wait. 'Youth' is a noun. Nouns don't have tenses! Someone take back his English degree!" Work with me here. When we talk about the youth in our churches, they're almost always described with one very Christianese phrase: "The youth are the future of the church." I agree -- halfway. Once the non-youth are no longer with us, or when they no longer wield decision-making authority, those who are currently classified as the youth will in fact be the ones filling the pews and calling the shots.
What I disagree with is the far-sightedness of relegating our youth to the future. They're here with us right now. As they come to Christ, they join the church -- and that means they are the church. Not just "will be" (future tense), but "are" (present tense). They are every bit as much a part of the church as any other member. Our youth are entitled to the same privileges older members enjoy: voting, having a voice in decisions, making suggestions about worship, etc. Their classes and program offerings should be on par with those for other age groups. No hastily compiled lessons, no apathetic teachers. Knowledgeable people should be giving their all to those youth, teaching them the faith in ways they understand and which matter for their current (and future) life situations.
Youth are not an afterthought. They are not people simply waiting to become adult church members. They're the church right now. They are our lifeblood, if for no other reason than their current and future membership status. The church who gives their best to these present people in the congregation is the church who will have a solid future. But that takes recognizing our youth for who they are -- present tense.