Pictured here are some amazing teenagers and young men in our church. I love these guys! But today’s teenagers are living in a different world than the one I grew up in more than 40 years ago (I am 60 years old). And churches had better figure out how to serve what seems to be called “generation Z”, or we are going to lose them forever.
A recent Barna poll reveals that 12% of teenagers (13-18) identify themselves as something “other than heterosexual.” A recent gallop poll said that 13% of this same age group identifies itself as atheists. These numbers are considerably higher than they were when I was a teenager. They are, in fact, considerably higher than they were ten years ago. So how do evangelical churches compete and win against the secular, humanistic values and philosophies of the world—especially when it comes to reaching young people?
1. Love every teenager unconditionally. It is often easier to love the teens that come from strong, Christian families. They have manners. They have been trained to be respectful. They will accept what you teach as true. But there will always be teens that don’t come from ideal homes. Perhaps they are not as polite or respectful as others. They might question everything you teach (By the way, questioning what you are being taught is a healthy thing). They may be experimenting with all kinds of wicked stuff. Your first reaction may be to be repulsed by their lifestyle or their philosophy. Resist that impulse. Remember, anyone who comes to a church’s teen program is coming there for a reason. They are looking for answers. They are looking for community. They are looking to be valued and accepted. No matter what the teenagers’ hangups are, love them unconditionally.
2. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that some sins are worse than others. My pride is no more righteous than someone else’s immorality. If we find out that some teens in our church youth group are sexually active, we know that the Bible says that their lifestyle is unbiblical. And we will love them, accept them, try to build a relationship with them, and eventually try to gently guide them toward the truth. But if teens in our youth group identify themselves as being gay, they don’t always get the same kind treatment. Too many times the youth leaders just want to get them out of there. Here’s a newsflash: God loves gay people. Jesus died for gay people. It is therefore appropriate for us to show them unconditional love. It is not only appropriate, it is required!
3. Never feel like you have to water down your message to appeal to teenagers. Teach them clearly that Jesus is THE Way THE Truth and THE Life. Teach them what the Bible says is right, and what it says is wrong. Teens like a bold message that is clear. They don’t need you to agree with them about their lifestyle or their philosophy. They just need you to love them unconditionally and tell them the truth.
To read an encouraging book about heaven: http://crashingintoheaven.com/mybook/