As we contemplate the Sabbath School lesson on discipling Children, I am reminded of a blog post someone shared with me on Facebook a while back, that really hit home with me and my personal observations. The article, “Youth Groups Driving Christian Teens to Abandon Faith” mentions that many (not all) church youth groups help teens connect with each other, but fail to connect teens with the church or God. So, when they outgrow the youth group, they leave the church and God, which they never were connected to anyway.
Some youth leaders have even confessed to me that they had no relationship with Jesus themselves, and wanted me to teach the kids how to have the assurance of salvation, since that was something the youth leaders confessed they have not even experienced themselves. The youth leaders connected with the kids, but were not connected to Jesus, therefore it ended there, instead of going on to becoming disciples for Jesus. What we need are youth leaders who can connect with kids and connect with Jesus.
If not designed and executed properly youth groups can actually shoot themselves in the foot. Some youth groups isolate kids from the church family instead of integrating them into the church. For example, I once had a 20 year old lady tell me, “I don’t want to go to that church meeting tonight because it will all just be grownups and I want to hang out with kids my age.” The youth group failed this young woman, because at age 20 she still saw herself as a kid instead of identifying herself with the grownups which she is now a part of! She is now too old for the youth group, but does not realize that she is now an adult. She is now on the outside as she is too old for the youth group, but never was connected to the church family, let alone God. And no, the solution is not a young adult group. I am not saying it is wrong to have one, I am just saying there is a problem when a 20-year old does not realize they are not a little kid anymore, and putting them in another bracket will not fix the problem. At age 12 Jesus did not become a youth or young adult. He became a man. The term teenager was not even recognized until the 19th century. There were no youth groups as anyone 12 or older was now a part of the regular church congregation.
I have served in smaller churches with no youth groups so to speak, and saw teens thriving in the church family. There was no segregation between young and old. In one church in West Texas, the bulletin editor was 13 years old, and was probably the most responsible bulletin editor I ever saw. She was home schooled, and if I did not have my sermon information called in before 1 pm Wednesday, she was calling me! She is now married with two children, in her early 30’s and still very active in her church family, and more importantly has an experience with God. She never made the transition from youth church to the “real” church, because she was brought up in the “real” church from the git-go. Unlike the 20-year old woman I mentioned earlier, she sees herself as a grownup and has for a long time. She stopped seeing herself as a little kid, back when she was 13 putting the bulletin together every week.
Youth groups, like any other type of Church group, is purposeful only as it helps young people feel connected to Christ and a part of the entire church family, instead of just a part of a little group only connected with themselves.
I agree! And to take this one step further, I believe ‘children’s church’ should be done away with completely. Everyone, from the children to the youth to the adults to the seniors should be in the sanctuary together during divine worship on Sabbath. We give lip service to unity and then we divide ourselves up into all these different groups. That’s fine for Sabbath School, but during the main church service we should all be together. And the children and youth should be encouraged to serve as active participants in the service (junior deacon/deaconess, special music, devotional reading, offering, prayer, and even occasional preaching) as the worship program permits. The way to keep the youth in the church is not by giving in to their desires for contemporary modern music such as Christian rock, Christian jazz, etc., but by letting them be involved along with the adults in the worship program through their service.
In heaven we will all worship together. Aren’t we suppose to be experiencing heaven here on earth ?
Yeah! I agree William, Karmin, Colin and Eva. We have our young adults and youth be part of the church service. Last week, I had them teach, along with a leader, a part of the adult Sabbath School which they attend because we are a small church.
The gospel should be simply expressed and any communication to include different levels of intellect. Sometimes that means patiently repeating things. I have seen teenagers who are sharper than many adults and it’s often the adults who don’t catch on.
I love that a homeschooler helped with the bulletin. Thanks for a great post.
May be am too old at 53. We may be modernizing worship, especially in Africa, by having too many classes(kindergarten, beginner, primary, power point, early teen, teen, Real timers, youth and adult) divisions during sabbath school. Are these there in ancient time. At some time the church get confused when there is no space to contain these groupings! I wish to suggest that let each family stick together in the Church for fellowship to ensure follow up by parents after worship. The follow up may not be done effectively when the parents do not know what the children and youth learned in their fellowship even during divine service because the are separated for Civilization.
You’re not too old, David! You may be older, but with age comes wisdom. Everything you said is ‘spot-on’ as they say today, especially the part about families sticking together in church. I couldn’t agree more with you or with all the great posts here from Karmin, Eva, Janesir and of course William.
Thank you, William. I remember when I was 14 years old that I preferred to be an “adult” and play the piano for the kindergarten Sabbath School class (my mom’s friend was the teacher) than to attend the early teen class with all the silliness among the teenagers. I wasn’t one of the “cool” kids so it was easier to act like an adult and do a job during Sabbath School than to try to hang out with my peers and be ignored or bullied.
I agree with a lot that has been written. I truly appreciate William’s post. I am saddened to observe what is happening in our churches. Many parents are not coming to Sabbath school nor bring their children,thus no lesson study. There is no worship at home. Many are not found in our schools and so the second door is closed to their study and knowledge of salvation. If there is a youth group and the leadership themselves are not thoroughly grounded in The Lord, that avenue is closed. We are currently losing our church. For our young people are not the church of the future but for today. Pray for revival and reformation. God has always had a remnant and it is alive and growing in the power of the Holy Spirit. Let’s do all we can to disciple our children in all of the avenues God has provided. Integration and not separation into our churches is the direction.