| Baptist churches have
generally been in the forefront of Christian youth work. Although,
being independent, they have managed to effectively share their methodologies
for reaching teens. As a result, it is not uncommon to find a good
strong teen ministry in any sized Baptist church--from a couple dozen teens
to a few hundred. There are even Baptist churches who number their
teens on the thousands.
Here are some of the guiding
philosophical principles that have made Baptists successful in reaching
teens for Christ......
Reaching Out to the Current Teen Culture
- Not Stuck in a Time Warp
the 1950s, public school teachers rated the following issues as being the
most troublesome: talking out of turn, chewing gum, making noise, running
in the halls, cutting in line, dress-code violations, and littering.
The most recent poll of school teachers states that the main issues are
now drug abuse, alcohol abuse, pregnancy, suicide, rape, robbery, and assult.
If ever a generation of teenagers needed the Gospel message of salvation
along with having access to an active and quality church youth group, it
any attempt to reach them using outdated methodologies is nothing more
than an excercise in defeat. Being able to claim that your church
only has a handful of young people but they are all spiritual giants is
another way of saying that the church has failed in its mission to reach
the teens throughout the community. Teens are heavily influenced
by whatever cultural trends, music, activities, lingo, and fads are taking
place at the time. Just as any missionary is first challenged to
learn the culture and language of the tribe he has been called to reach
for Christ, a good church youth program takes the same approach.
No missionary is going to try to teach the natives to sing Martin Luther's
"A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" and no church teen leader is going to reach
teens using archaic and old fashioned
the Internet. Look for the pages on large church web sites that feature
their teen ministries. Contact a successful church near you and ask
to meet with their youth leaders to get ideas and help. Be willing
to open up your mind to some new ideas and challenging thoughts that
will stretch your own mind. Let the Spirit of God make the changes
within you and the church you belong to claim the teens in your community
Quality of the Teen Program - Not the
Size of the Church
Due to the independent nature
of Baptists, their programs for teens are more home grown than they are
based on any type of international or denominational resource.
full-time youth pastor or a member couple
who are committed to this ministry can experience exceptional growth when
parents realize that their teenagers can find a place for socialization
that is both safe and builds character. Conversely, a church of size
will eventually experience shrinkage if the emphasis on reaching teens
is not emphasized.
| Youth groups
for teenagers are usually organized to be a social group centered on Biblical
teaching. The teen Sunday school class is the center point of any
youth group with activities planned around it. From the traditional
Saturday night youth meeting to weekly Bible groups to all day trips to
fun places approved by the church, Baptist church teen groups are the norm.
The only real difference between them is that of the leadership.
Those churches blessed with a
A Ministry to the Whole Family - Not
Just to the Teenagers
His name is Paul and he was
one of the finest Christians I have ever known. Not only that, but
he was a terrific husband and father. His wife and children loved
him very much. The only problem he had was the church youth director.
In this case, that was me. Innocently enough, I had so impressed
his teen children that they were confiding more in me than their own parents.
No one would say that this is a bad thing. Most people really appreciate
an effective teen ministry in their church that provides an alternative
to the trappings of the teenaged years. However, I was so good at
reaching teens that I was not aware of my responsibility to minister to
the entire family of each teen in my care.
Paul made it a point to broach
the subject with me and laid out how he felt that a good teen ministry
involves the parents as well as the teens. I took his words to heart
and, in a short time, realized that he had given me one of the essential
keys in building a terrific church youth program. From then on, I
looked for ways to include the parents and families of teens in various
activities, workshops, Bible studies, etc. Although teens resist
too much inclusion of their parents, the occasional activity where the
parents put together an event to show their kids what they were like at
that age can be a lot of fun. What about a progressive dinner using
the homes of the teens with the parents serving the food (e.g. placing
salad in baggie and tossing it to the teens as they come in, thus, tossed
salad...or wearing surgical gloves to scoop out ice cream into bowls, thus,
hand packed ice cream).
By providing teens with the
guidence to include their parents and siblings in their commitment to Christ,
your church youth ministry will be so much more effective.
A Place to Find God's Calling - Not
a Poor Example of Pastoral Abuse
Furthermore, strong youth
ministries have traditionally been the one area of the church where young
people first sense God's call to the ministry. This has more to do
with the quality of the teen ministry than the size of the church.
The need for such ministries to be strong and effective is now a necessity.
Due to the fact that less
young people are entering the ministry than ever before is alarming.
This is primarily due to five decades of tumultous strife in Baptist churches
that has been engendered by the "Children of the 60s" who introduced a
very definite philosophy of "me-ism" into our churches. The result
has been that too many committed pastors and their families have been emotionally
and spiritually "beat up;" not to mention the low wages, lack of respect,
and tendency of churches to run off any man of God who does not comply
with their personal agendas. The young people of this current generation
have seen too much of this. As a result, those currently in the Baptist
ministry under age thirty-five average about 6% of all the ministers of
any particular association/fellowship while those above fifty-five years
of age account for 40%.
The general hindsight regarding
the last fifty years of Baptist history is that pastors have been generally
abused. Thus, the tremendous revivial of young people committing
themselves to full-time service in the 1950s and 60s has greatly decreased.
God is calling them. We can be assured of that. However, they
are not hearing His call due to the deafening noises stirred up by those
churches who have been a poor example of how men and women of God are to
be appreciated, honored, and respected.
A Personal Relationship With Christ
- Not Just Going to Church
Guiding teens to understand
that Christ should be the center of their lives is very different from
simply getting them to come to church. A fantastic church teen program
that draws hundreds of young people to it's functions may look to be successful.
However, if that same ministry is not effective in challenging teenagers
to commit their lives to Jesus Christ, it's effectiveness is questionable.
Each generation presents
it's particular challenges but all are reachable when a church determines
to claim all of the young people in the local community for Christ.