“Why is it important for the Church to invest in youth?”
A question like this is generally an easy one for anyone to answer and most people typically agree with it. However, I hear it posed and I immediately begin bracing for the inevitable response, “Youth are the future of the church.” Often, my internal reaction is an eye-roll and sigh. It’s not that this answer is wrong. It’s just that being the future of the church is only one small part of the answer to this question. My response is that “The youth are the NOW of the church.”
This is why Youth Ministries exists. This is why Fellowship has Momentum on Sundays for middle school and has a youth group called Living Proof on Wednesdays for both middle and high school students. We value and understand the importance of teenagers encountering Jesus at their level.
As both a Youth Pastor and human being that was once a teenager, (not that long ago), I advocate for attending a youth group. Yeah, student ministry has its flaws, believe me; I can give you a list. But, student ministry provides so many positives for a teenager’s life, faith, and future. The thing is…in today’s culture both parents/students view a youth group as an elective. This means that if homework, sports, being tired, practice, fill in the blank, don’t conflict then both students and their parents might consider attending a youth-group. Don’t get me wrong, most parents want their teenager to be in a community with peers who believe what they believe where they learn Godly values, have fun, and build relationships. But when the teenager may have no interest or is “too busy”… it’s left at that.
Also, not every student who doesn’t attend ‘youth group’ at their church is neglecting spiritual growth or involvement. I would say that what ultimately determines the spiritual growth and outcome for most teens is the spiritual health and pattern of the family, not their participation in youth group. If faith, following Jesus, and being in community is a priority for you, there is a high chance it will be for your teenager, if not now then in the future. What I will argue for is being engaged in a student ministry provides more opportunities for a teenagers friends to come to know Jesus. Using a student ministry as a strategy to reach the lost is just one reason teenagers need it. Let me share with you a few other reasons why student ministry is important:
Teenagers need community.
We cannot underestimate the influence of our friends. You are the sum of your five closest friends - how they act, talk, and believe. To be honest, my friends were one of reasons I kept my faith as a teenager. I had so many friends that I met at church and my youth group who made such a positive impact on my faith. In return, it enabled me to have a positive impact on them, and my friends who didn’t know Jesus came to know him . It was in my youth group where I learned how to serve, how to lead, and how to make my faith my own. And it was that much easier and more effective because I had the support of my friends around me.
Teenagers need a safe place to be vulnerable.
Few places like that exist in this world. If you take a look around, there aren’t too many places where a young person can safely test their independence, be trusted with legitimate leadership roles, and follow good mentors. At church a teenager can truly be themselves. At church a teenager can make mistakes in an environment designed to help them get up and try again.
Teenagers need a greater purpose.
Teenagers long to be part of something bigger than them. Sports, bands, and clubs have capitalized on this longing for decades. Teenagers have a greater passion and imagination than any other age group. After all, most of Jesus disciples began following Jesus as teenagers, and they ended up changing the world. Showing a teenager what following Jesus looks like taps into something deep within their souls and being in a student ministry creates opportunities for them to serve their peers. A student ministry invests in youth because its aim is to create leaders that are well-rounded, experienced, trustworthy, and unique.
These are just a few reasons and I could go on. The bottomline is that as Fellowship’s Student Pastor I want to do anything I can to help the faith journey of a teenager. Whether you are a parent, a grandparent, aunt/uncle, young adult, single, or married, my challenge to you is to encourage teenagers to get involved in the church. The question is not so much, “Why is it important for the Church to invest in youth,” but “Why is it important for our youth to invest in the Church.” If you have any questions about our Student Ministries or if you’re interested in serving in Living Proof or Momentum, feel free to contact me!