Sometimes putting the inmates in charge of the asylum is fun.

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Photo by Ylanite Koppens on

By the time I left, he had something like fifty ideas, and excited for all of them.

I had come to ask questions and listen. This congregation has become content to a point bordering on apathy. I’m asking what they’re passionate about. I am not questioning their faith; I have seen it in action. But as a congregation, we’re certainly not moving together. We’re happy to show up for Sunday worship and nothing else as a family of believers. Time to tap into the passions they already have and use them.

I asked the family what we did that they were already passionate about.

Their young teen son said, “Helping at the hazardous waste cleanup! Can we do more of that?”

A couple times a year our congregation volunteers to help with various clean-up efforts in the community. It’s some of the few things we do outside our building, really. This was the first year this particular teen was old enough to participate, and he was excited to serve more.

He wants to make a difference.

I looked at him. “You want to do more? Like what? Do you have any ideas?”

First his eyebrows knit together in confusion. “Wait. What?” And then he thought a moment. “You mean is there anything I want to do? Oh!” And then his eyes popped open when he realized I was serious. “Yeah! Like, could we go to the dollar store and get a bunch of, like, hygiene products and hand them out to homeless people? Oh! And we could, like, adopt a homeless family or something. Take turns bringing them to church. Help them out. And then we could –”

I held up my hand. “Pick one of your ideas. Those are all awesome. Pick one, because at this point we can only do one at a time. So pick one and do some research. Figure out how to do it well. Figure out a time three to six months from now to get it done. You’re in charge. Just keep me in the loop so we can do this in a way that will give us the most chance of success, all right? Then we can get as many volunteers from the congregation as possible, too. But you figure it out and let us know what we’re doing.”

Wait. I’m in charge?” He’s back to confused.

His older brother is excited.

His dad is excited.

His mom is nervous.

I just nod. “You’re in charge. Do it. Do big things. And when we finish that, we’ll figure out what went well, what didn’t, so the next thing we do is even better. Got it?”

He’s already gone, thinking through all the possibilities. What to do? What to do?!

I just put a young teen in charge of a church project. Some people might think I just handed the keys to the inmates. After all, what does this kid know?

You know what I see?

Excitement to serve and eagerness to make a difference. I see a young man who is energized to do what the adults generally shake their heads at.

If this is an inmate, well, lock me up with him.

When I asked what we have that turns them off, the older brother speaks without even waiting a beat. “Our website. It’s crap. Why does it use the same picture over and over again?”

You want to redesign it?” I ask.


You’re on. Tell me what you need for content. What platform do you want to use?”

Little brother is still lost in his dreams of what he wants to tackle for his project.

Dad is thrilled.

Mom still can’t quite grasp what’s going on.

Big brother has been freed to serve, though.

And after a very successful meeting on various fronts, I walk out of that home… encouraged.


This is what I want in the congregation. People excited to serve. Both young men had earlier talked about Jesus being the reason for doing what they do. And later that evening, they both hopped online for our streaming Bible study and were active. So I have no doubt that while they still have growth to experience in the Gospel, I know that they are firm in Jesus.

But I handed them both the keys. You want to serve? Let’s do it. These are good ways to serve. Go. Lead the way.

And they’re empowered to do it.

I’m excited to see what will happen. Will their excitement peter out? Possibly. But then again… they could shine. And because this is their projects, how much more will they be eager to serve when what they’re doing happens? When that service projects goes off – not perfectly, no, but in a way that is a blessing to both the congregation and others as well? When that website goes live and actually looks good?

Sure, they’re teens.

That means they have the energy to get this done. They have ideas and excitement and – why not use that? Why look down on them, the way so many seem to? They’re not “just” teens. They’re not inmates.

They are already chosen children of God with gifts given by him to serve his people.

Let’s equip them to serve. Give them the keys.

And let’s see where their service leads!



  1. Great way to get the young’uns involved!! I pray they keep that excitement through to the end.
    I wish I could have seen the eyes light up when you were serious about letting them lead!!

  2. Fantastic! I see so many untapped talents and sooo much untapped energy out there, in young people who WANT to make a difference in the world- it’s wonderful that you’re helping them BE the change they want to see for Christ 🙂

    1. Than you! I’ve been encouraged by some books lately to simply encourage teens in particular to go and do, while providing both resources and wisdom to try and make sure it doesn’t become a disaster!

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