Fellow youth workers and church leaders, I would like to ask you a serious question – and, please make an honest evaluation of your ministry.
Are your teenagers more loyal to your youth ministry than they are to the church as a whole?
If they are, it’s no wonder so many teenagers quit participating in church following their days in youth group. Let’s remember that youth ministry was never designed as a terminal program – with a specific ending point for the students to be finished and then walk away.
Here are 5 things that any church can do to help build loyalty to the church as a whole:
- Teach them the importance of God’s church. Loyalty begins with an understanding of what church is all about. Develop a series of lessons on the church. Perhaps you could take them through Acts, the Epistles, and even the 7 churches in Revelation to give them exposure to what the Bible says about the church. Talk to them about basic ecclesiology and your church polity. There are lots of materials out there to help you with this, but if you feel uncomfortable doing this series yourself, I’m sure your lead pastor could offer some suggestions or resource material to help you.
- Provide opportunities for them to serve in the church. Loyalty also comes through what some would call “sweat equity”. Give your students practical opportunities to get involved in your church’s ministries and programs – and give them practical ways to use their God-given spiritual gifts. Provide ways for them to serve alongside adults and motivate them to get involved in work projects around the church. People are much more likely to continue in church if they have been actively involved themselves.
- Motivate them to give financially to the church. I encourage all youth workers to teach their students to give financially to the church. The majority of today’s teens have their own money. Their parents must be involved, of course, but teach them the discipline of giving financially to the Lord and to His church. It’s hard to walk away from something after giving financially to it.
- Expose them to church business and key church leaders. I also believe it is a wise move to give teenagers some basic instruction on how their church works. Why do you have communion? Why do you baptize people? What is the purpose of church business meetings? These are vital questions and your kids should know the answers. It is also a good idea to give your students some exposure to the key leaders in your church – and that starts with the lead pastor / senior pastor. Don’t forget he’s their pastor, too. I encourage youth workers to invite deacons and other church leaders to share their story or testimony to students. Maybe our kids are leaving the church because they really don’t understand it.
- Help them develop positive inter-generational relationships in the church. Chap Clark has said that if we want our kids to stay in the church after they graduate from high school, they will need personal relationships with 5 significant adults other than their parents. How are you doing with that? These adults need to be people above-and-beyond our teams of youth workers. They could be adult mentors, prayer-partners, Godly parents of other teens, work project leaders, or senior citizens who are genuinely interested in the next generation. I really believe that we are doing our students a disservice if we totally separate them from other generations in the church. We must think this through if we want our youth to go on for God as adults.s
These 5 things are just recommendations, but I think they are very practical and workable in a church situation – and I think these strategy suggestions will help build loyalty to the entire church instead of just the youth program.
May the Lord bless you as you seek to implement these concepts into the fabric of your church!