Matt Harder, youth pastor of New Life Church and co-founder of Lead Local, has seen thousands of students become fully devoted followers of Christ, and is ready to help others do the same in their community. In this episode of Moving Mountains, Matt shares his heart for uniting the local church and strategies for reaching the next generation with the gospel.
Responding To Loneliness & Isolation
As a youth pastor, Matt’s priority is addressing the challenges that his students face. “With this generation, there’s been a challenge of isolation.” It may seem contradictory, but the most digitally connected generation is also the one that feels most isolated, anxious, and depressed. Matt continues that social media “is actually causing more anxiousness and more depression. It’s magnifying the insecurities of the teen years.”
Matt notes that “previous generations had the same struggles, battles, and sin.” But for students, those struggles and feelings are amplified and with social media, there’s more out there—more people to be like, more vacations to take, more news to consume.
The amount of content to see, read, and engage with online is daunting, and it grows every day. For Matt, that level of information and accessibility is the problem. “We were never created to be God. God is God. We were never created to be everywhere at once.”
Intergenerational Conversations In Youth Ministry
Matt admits “the older I get the less I like to pause.” He reflects that it’s easier to speak quickly from wisdom and life experience to students, but that’s not a way to create an open dialogue with students. Instead of abruptly answering a question or reacting with a gasp, Matt encourages following up with more questions when talking with students.
Why do you feel the way you feel?
What led you down the road to process that way?
With these questions, it opens the door to a longer, more meaningful conversation. In preparation for tough conversations, Matt advises leaders to “listen, hear them, hear their story, and know that God wants to do a special work in them and ask God for discernment and wisdom.”
Matt notes that today’s youth and young adults “need the generation before them to anchor themselves in the word of God.” Only through that anchoring can we “create fully devoted followers of Christ and take one conversation at a time with these precious children that God has entrusted us with.”
Unity In The Church
For Matt, programming and curriculum are important, but what matters most in ministry is the people. Lead Local, the ministry he co-founded with his wife, unites local church leaders to pastor their communities with the gospel of Jesus through discipling next-generation Christian leaders. With events already happening in 9 states, including Washington and Florida, Lead Local is fostering a sense of community, and building support networks for pastors and leaders.
And with a united and connected community, we create a picture of a family.
Matt says “if we want to be a witness to this generation, they need to see a picture of family, a healthy family.” This feeling of family is a stark contrast to the disunified culture Matt says students currently face. For a student, it’s impactful to come and see a church—multigenerational, multicultural, multi-ethnic, multi-gift-mix—united.
After 13 years in youth ministry, Matt knows that “more than ever we need parents, grandparents, young adults, all those generations” to come together and use their God-given gifts to show what a church should look like. Matt notes that so many people make the mistake of feeling irrelevant at a specific age to youth ministry. But “a parent is never irrelevant in a student’s life.” The generational unity and variety of people to talk and encourage students invite more and more students to come to know Jesus. Matt believes “when you open your heart to kids, questions and answers will come, and it will flow well.”
We hope Matt’s encouragement inspires you to strengthen your youth ministry and engage the church of tomorrow. Not sure where to get started? Pushpay helps church leaders connect and unify their community with our ecosystem of church tools. Click here to learn more about how Pushpay can help you disciple the future of the church.
To listen to this episode of Pushpay’s Moving Mountains podcast, click here.
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