Why Church Based Youth Ministry is Important
Parents often tell me that their teenage son or daughter attends a youth group at another church because their friends go there. While part of me is glad they are plugging in somewhere, another part of me mourns because they are missing out on a great experience in their own faith community. The same is true for students from Christian homes who attend Young Life.
Why is it important for students to attend the youth ministry at the church they grew up in and where their parents attend?
Bridge between Youth Ministry and the Home
When a student attends the youth ministry at their church, there is a connection with the family of the student. The leaders in the ministry know the student’s parents and understand the family dynamics of the student. They can encourage the parents and build a solid bridge between the youth ministry and the home. This cannot happen effectively when the student is attending another youth group at a church where the parents don’t attend.
Connections with the Adult Community
A solid youth ministry connects students with the adult faith community in the church. Whether it is mission opportunities or fellowship times, youth group students get the chance to interact with other adults in the church. This can be an effective web of accountability and encouragement for students. I love seeing former Sunday School teachers get excited when they see their former student involved in the youth ministry of the church. When a student attends a youth group at another church, this web is disconnected and ineffective.
Young Life is not a Substitute for the Church
I love Young Life. I love their commitment to reach students with the Gospel who are outside the church and disconnected from Jesus Christ. I love their commitment to campus ministry and Christian camping. I love meeting with our local Young Life director and hearing his heart for students. That said, Young Life is not built for churched students. Al Jackson, a Young Life staffer, writes, “But while Young Life will be many things to a teenager, it can never fulfill all the roles a church is called to be in the life of a believer.” Young Life is a great evangelism tool for the church, but it is important that those who come to faith in Young Life are connected into a local church community. We are hoping to figure out here in Champaign how a church based youth ministry and a Young Life ministry can partner in this task of discipleship.
Consumer Based Youth Ministry
Ok this one might be tough to stomach, but are we creating consumers of church when we let our kids pick their youth group? What happened to challenging our students to be investors instead of consumers of church? In high school my dad started pastoring a small church and made us switch youth groups. It was hard and I definitely didn’t like it at first, but it taught me to step outside my comfort zone and become an investor in what was going on. We are doing our children a disservice when we let them make choices based on what they like. Too many people church “shop” based on what they “like” and are missing out on the radical discipleship that God is calling us to. We need to start calling our children to this transformational path early instead of letting them choose what is comfortable.
Make your church’s youth ministry a shining light to the world by challenging your children to invest instead of consume. Connect with the youth pastor and give him/her your full support. It might be hard for your son or daughter at first but when they stick it out they will reap the full benefits of a church based youth ministry.