Senior Pastor Jeff Chong (HOPE Singapore) began his message by sharing one question he often receives: How do we reach the young people in Singapore?

He also shared something striking that a fellow pastor recently said to him: “It is only when we are able to get the young people in our church to serve in the church, that we are able to reach young people into the Kingdom.”

Drawing on his experience in pastoring youths, Pastor Jeff offered two things he believes are important in reaching pre-believing youths.

The two things required to reach pre-believing youths

Firstly, our youths must love the youth service. They need to want to be there, and want their friends to be there too.

They have to come to a place where they can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to attend the service because it is so cool, fun and relevant. 

Secondly, pre-believing youths must find relevance to the service. It has to be a service that is relevant and understandable to the unchurched.

Granted, some of them may not come to a place where they receive Jesus into their lives, but they must be able to understand what the preacher is talking about and how Jesus has transformed their friends’ lives.  

The reason why we chose to run the service on Saturday instead of Sunday is because we want to reach pre-believers. 

For the service programme, we began to do things differently.

Back when yo-yos were popular, we had a yo-yo competition before service. The youth could invite their pre-believing friends to join in the fun.

We did sermons differently too. I distinctly remember a sermon series that we did: “What Would Jesus Say To Britney Spears?”

We talked about studies a lot; about BGR (hot topic); a lot about friendship. We experimented a lot.

There were some hits and misses, but the attitude was that we wanted to do all that we could, short of sin, to reach people who were far from God.

We wanted to create a service that the youth could be proud of.

From there, the youth group grew in quality and quantity. It was a service run by students, for students, to reach students.

Students were leading cell groups, mentoring one another, and taking up different leadership in services from ushering to singing to multimedia.

Students were reaching out to their pre-believing friends and taking ownership of their schools.

We saw students crying — not because they couldn’t get tickets to the BTS concert — but because they didn’t want God to bypass their schools. 

We went from seeing students sleeping in service, to seeing students being excited about Jesus and coming to faith in Him becoming the new norm.

I’m not saying that what happened in our church is unique.

I am neither unique nor special; but God can use me and He can work through every single one of us.

So wherever you may be on the continuum of reaching out to the youths, we can all take the next step to do better.

My dream is that every single one of us begin to up our game in terms of reaching the young people in our nation.

2 lessons learnt as a youth pastor

1. Reaching the youth will cost something, and they need leaders’ buy-in

Just as it takes a whole village to raise a child, it also takes the whole church to reach the youth. This begins at the top, and requires the buy-in of the senior leaders. 

Let’s be honest: the youth ministry is a “cost centre”.

Indeed, I sometimes tell the youth in our church: all your offerings collected can’t even pay for the air-con and lights bills.

But even though the youth ministry costs us a lot, it is even more costly when we don’t have youths in our churches anymore.

That is a price we cannot afford to pay.

The best time to build the youth ministry was yesterday, but yesterday is gone. So the next best time is today.

2. We need interpreters

When I was leading the youth, I understood most of their lingo and mindset. Yet as I aged, it became more challenging to do so.

The late Pastor Rick Seaward shared with me a very precious lesson. He told me that once, he visited Victory Family Centre’s (VFC) youth service, and he couldn’t understand the music, lyrics or the dressing. He couldn’t understand the youths.

But the youth pastor could. Back then, VFC’s youth pastor was Pastor Jeremy Seaward. Pastor Rick knew that Pastor Jeremy shared his values and was also young and close enough to the youths to understand them. 

Thus, Pastor Jeremy would act as his “interpreter”. Pastor Rick would ask him about what he saw and ask him to interpret them to Pastor Rick so that he could understand. 

Senior leaders and pastors, we do not need to be cool. Instead, we need help.

We need interpreters who share our values and understand the mindset of young people, and then work together with them. 

I was speaking to a pastor who came from a mainline denomination, and he said that their church was losing their young people by blocks

Senior leaders and pastors, we do not need to be cool. Instead, we need help.

He said, “We’ve got to wake up and know that we need to do better.”

This isn’t about you or me, we’re here to build a legacy for Christ. 

So I want to urge you with my whole heart: have a heart for the young people.

Found the article on reaching young people insightful? If you want more, go watch the discussion panel led by Pastor Edric Sng!

  1. Based on the article, what does “winning the youth” look like for your church?
  2. What is one practical way you can be a help and blessing to your youth pastor?