No, we don’t. We need young men and women in our churches who have a vital relationship with Jesus Christ.
In a recent article over at The Gospel Coalition, Jon Nielson (pastor at College Church in Wheaton, IL) asks and answers a very important question, namely, “Why do youth stay in church when they grow up?” His answers fall under three headings:
- They are converted. (Excerpt: “We need to stop talking about ‘good kids.’ We need to stop being pleased with attendance at youth group and fun retreats. We need to start getting on our knees and praying that the Holy Spirit will do miraculous saving work in the hearts of our students as the Word of God speaks to them. In short, we need to get back to a focus on conversion.”)
- They have been equipped, not entertained. (Excerpt: “Forget your youth programs for a second. Are we sending out from our ministries the kind of students who will show up to college in a different state, join a church, and begin doing the work of gospel ministry there without ever being asked? Are we equipping them to that end, or are we merely giving them a good time while they’re with us? We don’t need youth group junkies; we need to be growing churchmen and churchwomen who are equipped to teach, lead, and serve.”)
- Their parents preached the gospel to them. (Excerpt: “As a youth pastor, I can’t do all this. All this equipping that I’m talking about is utterly beyond my limited capabilities. It is impossible for me to bring conversion, of course, but it is also impossible for me to have an equipping ministry that sends out vibrant churchmen and churchwomen if my ministry is not being reinforced tenfold in the students’ homes. The common thread that binds together almost every ministry-minded 20-something that I know is abundantly clear: a home where the gospel was not peripheral but absolutely central.”)
This is a timely exhortation by Nielson given how many churches in America appear to be re-evaluating their youth ministry approach, including us here at Immanuel. For the sake of the youth in your church, read the whole thing. And pray that our young people become far more than mere “youth group junkies.”