Dear parents of teenagers,
First of all, you are doing an amazing job. I am so thankful that we have such an amazing community of young people. It is a blessing.
Can I take a moment to talk about Youth Group?
Why I believe in Youth Group
In a world that is busier then ever I can understand how easy it must be to allow Youth Group to slide down the list of priorities for the week. So let me encourage you with the following 4 reasons why I believe that being planted in Youth Group is so important for teenagers.
Youth need mentors and role models
In the Jewish culture it wasn’t just parents that poured into the younger folks. Older men poured into younger men and older women poured into younger women (Titus 2:1-8.)
I’m of the firm belief that you the parent are the primary spiritual mentor of your teenager. That their growth and development is your responsibility first and foremost.
However I also believe that it takes a village to raise a child. That God’s plan is that there are others that come alongside young people to speak life into them. This is where I believe Youth Group is so important because it’s here that teenagers can do life with people their own age and the generation just ahead of them. To see that it’s not just their parents belief but there are other young people on the same journey who may even be worth following and imitating just as Paul urged.
Imitate me as I imitate Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1)
Youth need community
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24,25
God’s plan for our lives is that we live in community. In an age where social media keeps us more connected more then ever before, we are strangely more isolated then at any time in history. This is believed to be a fundamental reason for the epidemic of mental ill-health that we see in our society.
Often I hear from parents who are window shopping for a Youth Group about how my son/ daughter doesn’t fit in. Or that the other youth aren’t seeking to go as deep spiritually as their teenager.
As a Youth Leader, my desire is always that every person fits in; that they find relationships that bring joy and that they go ever deeper in their spirituality. Therefore I empathise deeply when these needs are not met and they are left hungry for more. But yet I also feel frustration rising in those moments because in what context of life do we engage with an environment that wholly satisfies our every need? Since when do we come into a community looking only at what we can receive in the transaction rather then what we can contribute too? As I search my Bible for God’s pattern I see a way of love that is counter cultural and counter intuitive in the way that it meeds our needs.
One only has to look at the transformation of Michael and Lyndon over the past 10 years in our own community of Tailrace to see the power of God’s pattern. I still remember that cold, dark, July night at Youth Group when they first met, and to see their friendship and personal transformation today is a miracle which the world can’t explain because it belongs to the patterns of God’s plan. There is blessing which happens from being planted in community even though it will never meet our every need.
The way of heaven is that as we love people that aren’t like us, love transforms them. BUT the hidden secret, beauty and power of the command to love the unlovable is what it does within us. We are transformed more into the likeness of Christ and we receive a blessing that satisfies a yearning within our soul.
Youth need mission
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
Youth Group is a place where your teenager can become participants in God’s mission. It’s a place where they can share with their friends in an environment that is culturally more appealing and relevant to their friends than what the traditional Sunday Service might be.
Becoming partners with Jesus in the Great Commission is a fundamental milestone in any believers faith. In fact I’d argue that aside from their own decision for salvation that it is the most important milestone in maturity of faith.
Youth need theology
“Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.” Ephesians 4:14,15
One of the things I love about our Christian faith is that when our context meets our theology, our theology can be as simple or as a deep as we desire. By that I mean it can be as simple as Love God; Love Others. Or it can be as incomprehensible as as grace undeserved which the mind cannot fathom, spelt out in the richness of the book of Romans.
Youth Group should be a place where Youth can come and wrestle with theology. To ask tough questions and form their own beliefs and values. It should be a place of going deeper in their faith. A place where their leaders can poke, prod and guide them deeper into relationship with God.
What I am certain of is that during High School your teenagers are challenged on their ideas, values and beliefs by their peers. They go through a period of formation where they evaluate the inherited values gained from you their parents, and they weigh this against what the other voices are saying to begin forming their own opinions.
Parents, this is going to happen.
It is already happening.
So what voices can you surround them with to oppose the tidal wave of public opinion? What safe environments can you place them in where they can explore and discover?
As a Youth Leader I’ll confess that there are going to be questions that I’ll probably butcher in answering. I can’t promise that my team and I will get it right every single time. I don’t know if even the worlds best theologians could do that. But what we can promise is that we will equip your teenagers to search God for themselves. That we will create safe places to explore questions and that the theology we speak is as closely aligned with the Word of God as our understanding allows.