Influencing children, youth & young leaders

Older generations must be willing to bridge the gap with younger generations in regards to where the church is today, and where they would like the church to go in the future, according to Ricardo Miller, an advocate of children’s, youth and young adults’ ministries who says many things have to change if the church is to be the heartbeat of culture and the moral compass for experiencing and sharing faith with young people.

“The church without a children’s or youth ministry is a dying church,” said Miller who hosted the Influencers Summit geared towards pastors, children’s and youth ministry leaders and others who work with children, young adults and Millennials, and who have a desire to see them redirected on a positive path.

In its third year, the summit was rebranded from the National Children’s Ministry Summit to the National Influencers Summit to broaden the reach and influence from children to youth and young adults.

During the summit he addressed critical strategies that he said must be applied to ensure that the next generation is effectively being reached at the weekend summit held under the theme “Developing the Leader Within”, during which attendees were challenged to see themselves as more than children’s workers, but rather as influencers who would shape and help to define the destiny of the young people of the country.

Miller has said The Bahamas is facing a national faith crisis on the rise which has to be brought under the question of who they are in God if The Bahamas is going to remain a Christian nation, governed by Christian values and principles.

“There is an urgent need for something to change. Nationally, we’re at an all-time high when it comes to the disconnect with the next generation. Though our young country continues to make great strides in many arenas, our inability to positively influence more of our children, teens and young adults is becoming more and more real. I dare say that we will have a national crisis on our hands if we don’t become more intentional about how and what we do to reach the emerging generation.

“Everything is changing but our strategies aren’t. As adults and community leaders, we have become grossly reactive and not proactive in our approach, and many of our methods antiquated.”

Miller said Sunday school, children’s church and youth meetings continue to prove lackluster, causing a decrease in attendance and engagement; yet, the subject of addressing national challenges among young people continues to be avoided by leaders.

“Adults are not appropriately adapting fast enough to connect with young people today – and never has there been a time when this were more evident. There is no shortage of young people in our country. The lack we have is with skilled, positive influencers to reach our children, teens and young adults.”

He is of the belief that if there is to be real change seen in the communities and country, the reach should not stop at children, but extend to teens as well as young adults.

“With many of our young people not getting to churches as children, we cannot discount the impact we can make in their lives as teens and young adults. Subsequently, the commitment and responsibility of the church remains the same to young people of all ages.”

As the strategies are different, through the Influencers Summit, Miller sought to teach children, youth, as well as young adult workers the relevant skills to reach and impact young people at any age.

“Millennials and their Gen Z kids want to help shape the future of the churches we are asking them to attend and participate in. They want to feel welcomed and valued,” said Miller. “If they are going to do so, we must closely examine everything we are doing and ask ourselves some honest questions when it comes to how relevant we are – not just at the children’s level, but also at the teen and young adult stage. If we’re to be the heartbeat and the spiritual compass for experiencing and sharing faith with young people, extending our influence to children as well as teens and young adults is imperative for keeping the church from dying. Together, at every stage of their lives, we can positively influence the next generation, one young person at a time,” he said.

During the summit he announced that he was retiring as the “face” of children’s ministry, but would continue training those who serve children, youth and young adults.

“It’s important that we know when it’s time to pass the baton. We have to know when we’re being led to shift, and turn the mantle over to those who are coming up behind us,” said Miller.

He noted though that there is an urgent need for something to change as far as the disconnect with the next generation, which he believes is at an all-time high.

“We keep doing the same thing, subsequently getting the same results. I was recently at a church here in The Bahamas on a Sunday morning and noticed that during the songs, not one single teenager was singing with the congregation. All of the songs were hymns that the older members of the congregation enjoyed singing and obviously had a strong preference for. This reminded me that every church that wants to still be in existence 20 years from now must set aside some of their personal preferences for how church should be done, and be willing to make room for what suits young people.”

He said that Millennials and Generation (Gen) Z want to help shape the future of the churches they are being asked to attend and participate in.

He asked church leaders about the last time they gathered a group of Millennials and Gen Z’s and asked them what they would change in the church if they were given permission.

“I have found that many of the ‘church battles’ and ‘worship wars’ that happen are because the older generation is unwilling to surrender any of their preferences. This is one reason why millennials and Gen Z’ers are leaving our churches,” he said. “If we want them to be leading the church one day when we are gone, then we must give them some say in helping lead the church now.”

Miller said the church hierarchy must examine everything they are doing and ask themselves honest questions when it comes to how relevant they are with the next generation.

“Older generations must be willing to bridge the gap between where we were, to the way we would like to go. A lot has to change, if we’re to be the heartbeat of culture, and the moral compass for experiencing and sharing faith with young people.”

During the course of the summit, Pastor Bradick Cleare spoke to people living out their life for impact and legacy. Over three general sessions and 12 breakout sessions, participants were inspired and equipped to take their work and service to children, youth and young adults to the next level.

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Shavaughn Moss

Shavaughn Moss joined The Nassau Guardian as a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor. Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics. Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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