Some of the most unusual church experiences I’ve ever encountered took place within the context of youth ministry—wacky games and activities, students playing foosball during the Sunday school hour, edgy (but shallow) teaching, sleep-deprived retreats (with no parents allowed), and more. All done in the hope of being “relevant and fun” so youth would want to keep coming back. Yes, some students kept coming back, but many grew up and left the church—untouched by true saving faith and maturity—when the fun stopped.
That is why I found a recent article by 19-year-old Sara Barratt so refreshing. Here is her observation:
Instead of undiluted biblical truths and concrete theology, many [teens] are fed a watered-down message. They’re entertained at youth group and isolated from older, wiser Christ-followers. They’re drawn in with pizza parties, games, and programs, but leave with the burning issues of their hearts still unanswered.
She points to four core topics teens need to hear:
1. We Need to Hear the Bible
…It contains the answers to our deepest questions, the wisdom for our hardest struggles. Please don’t give us an abridged version. Challenge us to read it for ourselves and model a lifestyle centered on God’s Word. Create an atmosphere of reliance on Scripture that whets our appetite and makes us hungry for more.
2. We Need to Hear About Sin
…When we understand the severity of our sin, our desperate need of grace, and that Jesus is the only hope we have, our youth groups will experience a transformation. Only when we’re staring the depth of our sin in the face can the full power of forgiveness and grace be unleashed.
3. We Need to Hear Biblical Truth on Cultural Topics
…Homosexuality, abortion, and suicide aren’t just shadowy ideas for teens today. They’re personified and real…Christian teens must have real, honest, and biblical answers for tough questions.
4. We Need to Hear about Radical Transformation—and Obedience
...Following Jesus isn’t easy. As we learn what Scripture says about issues we daily face, we have to make hard choices. Will we be obedient, or will we compromise? Will we stand firm and risk our reputation and our friends, or will we slowly slide?
That’s why the church needs to strengthen and resource teenagers, challenging them to go to Scripture, equipping them for ministry, and teaching them solid theology.
(“4 Things Teens Need from Your Church,” thegospelcoalition.org)
Does this mean there is no room for fellowship, fun activities, special retreats, and events? Of course not. But it does highlight the importance of focusing on what is most important for their lives—both now and eternally. What will inspire, guide, lead, and encourage them to …
know, honor, and treasure God, setting their hope in Christ alone, so that they will live as faithful disciples for the glory of God?
At Truth78, we want to help equip parents and churches in ministering to youth with this vision in mind. Our youth curricula is one means of doing this. It offers serious study of God’s Word, points students to their desperate need for Jesus, gives them a strong defense of the Christian faith when encountering the lies of this age, and inspires and encourages them toward radical and joyful submission to Christ. Learn more about our six youth curriculum titles here.
Also, here are three free seminars that we believe will assist youth leaders and volunteers in this important ministry:
By Design: Youth Ministry in the Local Church
Truth Drenched Youth Ministry
Reinforcing the Vision with Events and Programs