The future success and health of the CRC lies in engaging youth in relevant ministries and in giving them ownership of those ministries, says Rev. Jerome Burton, pastor of Coit Community Church in urban Grand Rapids, Mich.
“Our young people are future church leaders, and that’s why we need to give them a voice in our church,” he says. However, Burton doesn’t want to wait for young people to get older before inviting them to actively participate in the church. “We want them to play a role in our church right now,” he states.
That philosophy lies at the heart of Coit’s youth ministry, which was recently given a boost by a special Christian Reformed Home Missions grant that helped the church add part-time staff members. These new staffers, Carla and DeWayne Moore, focus their efforts on organizing youths and integrating them into the life of the 87-member church.
The Moores, who are also the directors of the local YMCA, mentor the six Coit youth members who make up the church’s Youth Ministry Council. These six young men and women are “being trained and mentored for ministry,” says Burton, who has led the church for the past 14 years. He adds that “this program provides order and structure for young people who often come from broken families with poor ideas of how institutions work.”
The young people on the Youth Ministry Council are given the opportunity to serve as junior elders and deacons, and they can attend regular congregational meetings. “They have their own budget and their own agenda for the meetings,” says Burton. “They have real responsibilities, which makes them feel a sense of ownership in the church.”
The members of the council, with help from the Moores, are planning a January youth conference. They also volunteer with a local mission and other ministries.
On the last Sunday of every month, the young people lead Youth Sunday. As part of this service, Youth Ministry Council members plan the liturgy and music and handle all worship responsibilities except the sermon.