Our church’s annual meeting was two weeks ago. Each year at this meeting, the pastor talks about the state of the church, we discuss various issues impacting the church, and we vote on a budget.
Although the meeting is open to all members of our congregation, most of those who attend are older. There is one notable exception to this: Our youth.
Each year, I encourage our teens and in particular, student leaders, to attend this meeting for several reasons.
First, it gives them a voice in matters that impact them in large and small ways, including our youth ministry’s budget.
Knowing how difficult it can be for teens to speak up in front of a room full of adults, to ensure they feel confident in their voice, prior to the annual meeting, I take time to walk them through various issues that will be discussed. This gives teens the chance to ask questions about those issues in a safe environment.
I do the same with the church’s budget and in particular, with our youth ministry’s budget. When it comes to the budget, my goal is for teens to be the most knowledgable people in the room.
Because I want them to know how much money it takes to run our youth ministry. I want them to see how that money is connected to the larger congregation and how every ministry’s budget – ours included – is directly dependent on offerings from families like theirs.
Beyond that, I want them – and not just me – to be able to answer any questions that might arise during the annual meeting about our ministry’s budget. Such knowledge gives teens ownership of our ministry and a voice in our overall congregation. Not to mention – when teens are the ones articulating where and how your ministry’s budget is stewarded, it’s much harder for people to cut it.
This strategy paid off at this year’s annual meeting. I had to unexpectedly leave at the start of the meeting, leaving a table of teens behind. As budget discussions began, a question was posed about our ministry’s budget which one of my teens was able to confidently answer, impressing many of the adults in our congregation with her detailed knowledge and understanding of our budget.
To be sure, though, having teens attend your church’s annual meeting is about more than protecting your ministry’s budget or even giving them a voice. Their attendance at the annual meeting is also important because it connects them to the larger congregation. This gives them the opportunity to connect with people they would otherwise not cross paths with.
Lastly, for better or worse, attending the annual meeting teaches teens how the church works. It demonstrates how necessary their participation is in the life of the church.
And when teens cultivate the habit of participating in the life of the church – even the mundane aspects of it – I can’t help but think they’ll be more likely to do so as adults.
With that in mind, how are you encouraging teens to participate in the life of the larger church?