Recently, my husband shared with me that 88% of teens who are actively involved in a youth group, stop attending church as adults.(*Statistic from Already Gone by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer)
This is all teens, even those who come to church with their parents. This is shocking to me!
I grew up in a wonderful church which had, and still has, an excellent youth ministry. But, I’m not in church today because of the youth group. I’m in church today because my parents taught me the Bible at home and, most importantly, they lived it. I have some great memories of trips and teen camp (where I met my hubby!), but those events didn’t change my life. The following is what affected me the most as a teen:
- My parents provided a strong, secure and loving home life which reflected Christ daily.
- I chose good friends whom I associated with on my own, not in youth group. My best friend never once tried to get me to do wrong.
If you have a church with a youth ministry, I’m not saying you should boycott such a thing. Nor am I saying that churches with youth groups are wicked – no way! I just wanted to share a few observations with you.
1. Youth ministry is often another avenue toward drama. Teens have enough of that in normal life. Often, teens use the youth group as a time to show off their newest dress, jeans, car, cell phone – whatever. This causes those without such things to feel inferior. That isn’t something the church should advocate. But, I can’t blame the teens! They are still more of a child than an adult, so they act like…well, children!
2. Youth group encourages boys and girls to pair up. A 13, or even a 16 year old, should not be concerned with having a boyfriend or girlfriend. Again, this pairing up leaves some girls and guys out in the cold. It causes drama. But, again, you can’t blame the teens! It’s a fact of life that boys will like girls and vice versa, this is normal. But, it doesn’t mean they should pair up. They are too immature for such a thing.
3. A youth group should be focused on ministry objectives, rather than just fun. A youth group should have a focus to help the poor, go out soul-winning, visit nursing homes, go on mission trips, hear good preaching, have a Bible study and so forth. If your youth group is only concerned about skiing in the Rockies or getting funds for a trip to the Bahamas…well, it’s probably got the wrong kind of focus.
4. Youth group sets up teens to believe that church will always be about the next fun thing. Guess what? Ministry and church isn’t always fun! Sometimes, you won’t feel like going. Sometimes, your flesh will be fighting you. It’s easy to fight the flesh when you know you’re going to get to see “her” or “him”. It’s easy to fight the flesh when you know you’ll get a free burger out of it. But, what if you aren’t getting any of that? What if you just get to hear the Word of God preached? Wait a minute! Hearing God’s Word preached is wonderful! Shouldn’t our children realize this?
Before you fire off the argumentative comments and emails, please hear me out. Please, don’t stop attending your youth group. I’m sure the leaders who run it have the intention of teaching your children to love God’s Word and His work. Don’t break their hearts by quitting. Just be aware of the above pitfalls. What can you do as a parent to help? Here are some ideas:
Assess your home life. Do you apply God’s Word to your life in front of your children? When you openly sin (such as speak harsh words,) do you apologize to your children? Be real. If they stay faithful to the Lord, Mom and Dad, it will be because of you.
Be involved in your child’s teen group, not to criticize it to the leaders, but to help. If you witnessed the way “Suzie Q” gave “Sarah Jane” the cold shoulder, you can discuss privately with your child why that was not the way to handle the situation. Perhaps you witness your child bullying someone or ignoring someone or showing off. If you see these traits, you can discuss with your child later why that behavior is wrong. (This would require an objective parent, however.)
Be sure your children are serving in their youth group.If they are in a Bible study program in youth group, be sure they are actively participating. Too many parents use youth ministry as a baby sitter. It’s the parents’ job to train the children – not the youth leader’s!
Don’t let your children “pair up” with the opposite sex. That’s not what youth group is about.
When teen drama occurs. point them to the proper response from God’s Word.
I’m not looking for a debate by sharing these thoughts. I’m just hoping to help someone. My daughter is entering the “youth group” this year (Well, we don’t have “group”, we just have a “few”), so I’m facing these challenges myself. My husband and I have discussed this at length and are preparing ourselves for the future. My prayer is that we see that 88% return to church.