“…but teenagers scare me!”

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Who was the best teacher in your life?

I just calculated that I sat in something like 65 or 70 classrooms. Despite all of those experiences, only a handful of gifted educators truly opened up my mind and heart to the content.

I bet you have had a few great teachers. Think back. You can still hear the cadence of their voices, you can still remember their lectures. They pushed you to not just memorize facts, but to live with the information. And you really learned something. They made their classrooms a place where you had to work hard NOT to learn. So what about the teens that we influence every day?

Most “Christian” teenagers will put their faith on the shelf in their 20’s and NEVER return to it…sobering.

The Barna Research Group says, on average, 3 out of every 4 of our teenagers (74%) will go through and extended and often permanent disengagement from the Christian community. Imagine a group photo of all the students who come to your church (or live within your community of believers) in a typical year. Take a big fat marker and cross out three out of every four faces. That’s the probable toll of spiritual disengagement as students navigate through their faith during the next two decades.

Here are the top 5 things teens are looking for in a church (the Barna team asked 2,409 teens what their reasons are for attending a church):

1. 71% – Understand better what I believe

2. 66% – Make a connection with God (worship)

3. 65% – Volunteer to help others

4. 63% – Spend time with close friends

5. 62% – Get encouraged and inspired

The above is very telling, on two fronts. One, we must structure our youth groups to meet the needs of this generation. And two, this generation will be the leaders of our churches before we know it. We must understand their needs and expectations now and begin to lay the foundation for them to transition into leadership.

So how do we create environments where teens learn to think? How do we transform our efforts so that a deep, sustainable faith is a clear cut outcome? Here are a few successful strategies that I have observed throughout my years of mentoring youth:

1. Parents. What teens learn from their parents is the most significant predictor of what happens to them spiritually as adults. The church must have an effective parenting ministry.

2. Have the right standards for success. Define the “win”. The win is not in the number of attendees, the sophistication of the events, or the “cool” factor of the youth group. The standard must be whether teens have the commitment, passion, and resources to pursue their Creator independently, intentionally, and with all of their heart after they leave your influence.

3. Be more personalized. A one-size-fits-all youth ministry should be dropped in favor of efforts that address individual needs. This personalized ministry should focus on developing gifts and understanding purpose so that they exit theri teen years with a clearer sense of their role within God’s amazing story.

4. Life-on-Life mentoring. Set up intentional relationships that facilitate life-on-life mentoring. Connect teens with adults who can pour into them, who can “do life” together.

5. Allow mystery to propel learning. Teens will resist the idea that everything can be wrapped up in neat little packages. Not that Biblical standards are vague, they are not. But allow them to begin to process though the mysteries of our faith. They need to develop their own ability to process life’s complexities from a biblical viewpoint rather than being told what to do.

6. Build a Dream Team of uniquely gifted people. Great Bible teachers are not always effective youth workers. Some youth workers are able to create life-changing environments despite their limitations in group communications. My takeaway – your ability is impress people by talking about the Bible is less important than assembling a strong, complementary team focused on helping develop a deeper faith in teen’s lives.

Satan is after our youth. Every day that passes is another face crossed off with that marker. If teens scare you, pray right now for the youth in your community. If you have a passion for our teens, jump in! They need you. If you are a youth leader, take a look at your strategy. Pray that the Holy Spirit leads you to His plan for His kids. If you are a church leader or pastor, take a look at your budget and resources. Where does your emphasis on youth rank? Not only do you have a Biblical obligation to the younger generation, the future of your church depends on the teens of today.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Please pray for my teenage (19 going on 20) nephew Jonathan, who I have a post on right now. My mom and I are fasting today for him. He has cut himself off. He hides in his room all the time – no contact. I appreciate it.

  2. Praying right now Gabrielle that Jonathan will come to the end of himself and turn to the only real truth in his world – his Creator.

    Lord, please give your child Jonathan a softened heart to receive your love, and eyes to see the difference between lies and truth. Please bring to Jonathan someone to speak life into him. Protect him through this season of life and give compassion, mercy, wisdom and patience to those who will surround him as he walks this out. amen.

  3. […] teens July 12, 2007 Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 12:57 pm Not long ago my friend Roy wrote about ministering to teens his post was called “but teens scare me.” […]

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