Churches need to entrust their young people with real leadership roles.

By Felipe Carvalho

My name is Felipe Carvalho and I am a young deacon. I was raised into leadership by an entire church community.

Having grown up in Toronto, Ontario, I have attended New Life Reformed Church (Vida Nova) for 17 years and can proudly say I was raised by the entire church. The church family was an extension of my immediate family, helping my parents watch over me as I wreaked havoc through the hallways.

As I entered my teen years, the kids I had grown up with began to disappear from church. This happened over time, so that it was only when the youth of our church had virtually vanished that the church realized something was wrong. By that time, I was one of only five remaining in the large youth group we had started with.

It took the intervention of a concerned parent to turn things around. When I was 16, an adult reached out to my sister, me, and two others. He asked us to form a youth team, and together we began to plan events with the hope of bringing back those kids who had once congregated with us.

At first, our little team was excited as new people started attending New Life Church. Although we weren’t able to bring back the whole youth group, we were happy with our new ministry. But our excitement was short-lived. When the parent who had brought us together and led us also left our church, we were devastated. We searched for a new leader but had no success. At that point we knew we had to make a decision as to whether we would give up or continue as young leaders without an adult overseer. Fortunately, we chose the latter!

About eight months after we took on leadership of the youth ministry, things were going well, but the elders were noticing a disconnect between the consistory and the church’s young leaders. That’s when our pastor and elders decided to introduce some new people into the consistory. I was asked to consider the opportunity and welcomed it. We all saw it as a way to align the youth ministry with the entire church.

I became a deacon at age 17 and have been on the consistory now for four years. Each time the consistory meets, I see the meeting as an opportunity to learn, to gain more support for our youth, and to share the vision of seeing a young generation rise up and give their lives to Christ. Praise God, we have begun to see flashes of that vision! The youth and young adults are bringing new energy into all areas of our church, participating in, planning, and leading church-wide ministries. They are living into 1 Timothy 4:12: “Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”

Recently, I was asked how churches might encourage young leaders. My answer is that churches need to place real trust in them. Young leaders need to be given the opportunity to succeed without fear of being rejected if they fail. That kind of empowerment builds confidence. I am grateful to God and to New Life Church for entrusting me with this gift. I hope your church will also consider trusting and empowering young leaders as you live into God’s future together.

Felipe Carvalho is a deacon at New Life Reformed Church in Toronto, Ontario, where he is also co-president of the youth group.