I never wanted to be a youth minister. Honestly, I never wanted to be a preacher. Through several divine circumstances I ended up a preacher and at every ministry I have also served as the leader of the youth program. As a result, I have spent 23 years working with Jr High and High School students and their parents. I am currently a High School Sunday school teacher and one of the leaders of our Church’s youth group.
While serving the Church God also gave me the privilege of raising four boys of my own. One of them has now gone off to college, another is a senior, one is a sophomore and the youngest is in 8th grade. Having my own children in the youth group that I lead has given me some unique perspectives on all that we do.
I think my experience has given me the opportunity to write about why I believe that all youth should be involved in youth group.
1. They need spiritual instruction.
A teenage Sunday school class or teen youth group are great places to learn about God, Jesus, the Bible, and spiritual matters. Every week a teacher spends hours preparing a lesson to challenge and teach. Where else in the world are they going to get that? If a teen is not exposed to regular teaching in some form, then I highly doubt they are growing in their faith.
2. They need to see adults who model the faith.
Every week a there is a group of adults who really want to show your children what it means to follow Jesus. I have yet to have a youth sponsor or teacher who did not care about the kids on a very deep level. Children, especially teens, need to see adults other than their parents who are trying to live for Jesus.
3. They need to connect with people their own age who believe.
All people, including teenagers, need support in their faith. Youth group is a gateway to connect with people of like faith. Many of the youth who come do not have a lot in common. I firmly believe that is great. It gives the teens a chance to step out of their own group and see the many wonders of God found in different people.
4. They are not old enough to decide on their own.
I have had dozens of parents argue with me over this one. They say, “I don’t want to force them to go. They might resent me or the Church. I let them choose on their own.” I simply respond by saying “That’s crazy.” You don’t let them chose to go to school. You don’t let them chose to listen to their teachers or not. You don’t let them chose what they want to eat. You don’t let them chose what time they go to bed. You don’t let them chose to go to practice or listen to their coach. You make all kinds of choices for them. I guarantee they do not like your choices in many of those but they see that you are not budging so they do not fight it (often). Then when it comes to spiritual matters you tell them, “Whatever you want.” That is crazy. I believe a Godly character is more important than sports or school. There is no way I am letting my kids decide until they are out of my house. Sure, even my kids have resisted it when the school doesn’t respect Wednesday night. They know it doesn’t matter, they are going and they can miss the school function. You are the parent and don’t give the responsibilities that go with raising your kids in a Godly manner to anyone else.
5. They learn through the choices of the priorities their parents display.
Straight talk. If you make school and sports and vacation and whatever else a priority over Church or youth group, then your children learn what is really important. If you treat Church youth functions as the lowest priority on your list, they know that. Then one day they leave the house and they quit Church and you tell me, “They were raised better than that.” I want to say, “Not really.”
I am not going to tell you that Church youth functions are always wonderful. Some of them suck. We plan and prepare and things just don’t go well. But that is is also true of school functions and sports functions. Not everything is great and that’s life. You know what else? Sometimes it is incredible. I have seen teens brought to cheers and to tears. God was present and lives were molded for eternity. In fact, I have seen more good things happen in Church youth functions than bad and I would hate for your child to miss it.