Student ministry is an incredible world to be in. Its fun, its engaging, it keeps you young and on your toes, but most importantly you have the privilege to reach the next generation with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Sadly, more than ever, we are seeing a new generation that wants nothing to do with the local church. We can’t give up on them. Students and families need to be reached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It can be hard and it can be messy but, we must persevere in this.
Having this in mind, here are five things I believe teenagers need from a local church…
1. Teenagers need to know the Word of God. Whether its Sunday morning, Sunday night, a midweek environment, or small groups throughout the week, students need a specific time each week that they are taught the Word of God. It needs to be fun, engaging, and relational. It needs to be an environment that is just for them and their friends with adult leaders who will love and lead them. It needs to be an environment that a lost, disengaged, or “on the fringe” student can walk into and not be turned off by.
2. Teenagers need to see adults model authentic faith. I do not believe the main problem with the decline in student attendance at church is due to the lack of programming. I believe one of the main problems is they don’t see adults modeling the importance of faith development. When students don’t see adults who are passionate about Jesus and His kingdom, why would they be? I’m not saying student ministers and leaders are not at fault at all- sometimes I feel like we force things instead of developing things- but all in all, adults need to step up and be more passionate about Jesus.
3. Teenagers need to know they are as much the church as adults are. Kids, young adults, parents, senior adults, and anyone else for that matter need to see teenagers active in the local church! Students need to be a part of the same things adults are a part of. Students need to have opportunities to lead in areas adults lead in. That is the local church- when kids, students, and adults, come together for the sake of the Gospel and the glory of Christ.
4. Teenagers need a safe place to voice their doubts. Strategically a couple of times a year I do some form of an open Q & A with students. I allow students to put questions they are wrestling with in a box that are filtered and gone through. This is not because we are scared to answer any particular question but rather because some questions are better discussed in smaller environments. I then pull up a stool, sit down, and we talk. I’m open, honest, and frank. For years, I believe the local church has been scared to let teenagers ask questions. Their questions are raw, culture hot topics, and maybe even a little taboo, but important none the less. I LOVE what Reggie Joiner recently said at a conference… “Kids should feel safe enough to process their doubt so they can own their own faith.”
5. Teenagers need a place to engage in missions and ministry. This is so incredibly important in the spiritual growth of a teenager. I love seeing students on mission trips, running cameras for services, greeting for early and late services, reading Scripture in the service, taking up the offering, serving in other ministry areas, and so forth. The Great Commission begins with the command to “Go!” not “Sit!” May we make spreading the good news of Jesus Christ our top priority and may we make sure teenagers are involved and influential in this!