If a teenager walked into your church on Sunday on her own, with a friend, or with his family, what impressions would he or she have of your church? The numbers of teenagers leaving the church are staggering. I have come to wonder whether it is because we love teenagers in word, but not in deed.
I have met few people or churches that would actually say things that indicate that they don’t want teenagers at their church. Most churches express a desire to have youth actively participating in their ministries. Life has taught all of us that it is not what people says but what people do that proves their love. The same is true for youth and the church. So what is your church doing to show teens that you love them?
Here are some essential ways that your church can put your love into action:
1. Create a welcoming space for Teens
I’m not talking about creating a coffee shop or game room at your church. Are youth really a part of the church if they come through the back door to simply go to their designated space, never encountering the rest of the church? Welcoming space is about friendly faces who know you and your name. Welcoming space is a clear expression that youth are valued in this church.
2. Engaging them in Worship
In churches that love teens, it will be clear that teens are valued every Sunday during worship. Youth will play an active role in worship leadership. Testimonies to God’s movement in and through the youth ministry will be a regular occurrence or sermon illustration. There will be a clear connection between the pastor and church leadership and the youth. You will know that the church recognizes and values their presence in worship, which may or may not involve different styles of worship.
Research continues to show that churches that create “sticky faith” (stickyfaith.org) are churches where teens have intergenerational relationships. Teens visiting your church will be able to tell if other teens like the adults who are at the church. They will recognize genuine, caring adults who are taking an active interest in teens’ lives.
Does your church invest in ministering to teenagers? People invest their money in things that they believe will produce great dividends and returns. People donate their resources to organizations and ministries that they believe make a difference. Is your church investing in youth ministry? Are time, finances, and resources being invested into helping youth encounter the life changing power of the love and grace of Jesus Christ?
5. Like a Magnet
Kenda Creasy Dean says in Practicing Passion that youth, like a magnet, orient themselves to the greatest force that desires them. Churches who genuinely actively love teenagers will have teenagers, because youth are dying for places that will love them for who they are. Prove you love them.
Does your church love teens? Do they know it?
Kenda Creasy Dean, Practicing Passion: Youth and the Quest for a Passionate Church. (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, Mich., 2004), 11.