Have you seen the movie The Terminal?
The story centers around a man who is stuck between two countries, unable to enter either due to paperwork issues. He cannot return to the country he came from nor can he enter the country to which he flew. So, he takes up residence in an airport until the authorities can determine what to do with him.
Teenagers tend to be stuck in their own metaphorical airport. They are no longer children and cannot return to their childish ways but they are not yet independent adults who can enter into the freedoms and responsibilities of adulthood. And this trend of teenage isolation impacts churches. Teenagers have left children’s ministry but are not yet accepted into most adult ministries. Instead, their only interaction with the church is through youth group where they only interact with other teenagers and perhaps a handful of adults.
Therefore, when teenagers transition into adulthood and leave their childhood homes, their understanding of church membership is limited. They have not experienced the beauty of multi-generational discipleship, in-depth bible study, or had the opportunity to serve their fellow church members. They may not even feel that their faith is their own because they have never had to decide whether or not to actively participate in the life of a church. They simply go where their parents, guardians, or friends go. While youth ministry is an important part of church ministry, it does not have to be the only avenue for teenagers to be involved in a community of believers. Instead, we can recognize that teenagers with faith in Christ are already a part of the Church and should be united with other believers.
Teenagers that are in Christ are meant to be in the Church as well. Those with faith in Christ are united together with all other believers and together are the temple of God where His Spirit dwells. Paul explains the unity of the church in Ephesians 2:18–22, which says, “For through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So, then, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In Him the whole building, being put together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In Him you are also being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit.” The age, gender, race, or ethnicity of believers should not separate us from one another. Instead, we are to live as members of the same family of God who have been brought together in Christ through His sacrifice.
Do you want your teenager to be involved in the church, but are not sure where to start?
Consider these tips for grafting teenagers into your local church:
- Ask if teenagers can attend adult small groups or Bible studies. Teenagers are often more ready for in-depth discussion and Bible study than we think, and their unique perspectives will often benefit the group discussion as a whole.
- If your church has women’s or men’s events such as teaching nights or retreats, invite your teenagers to come with you.
- Ask a trusted friend or family member to disciple them regularly. Teen discipleship can be as simple as opening up your Bible and reading a chapter of Scripture together every week or discussing the sermon together after church service. It can also be inviting a teenager into your life so that they can see how the gospel impacts your family, work, and everything else. You can take them with you as you run errands or as you watch your children’s soccer game.
- Invite your teenagers to serve the church. Ask them what they enjoy doing or are gifted in, and see if there is a way for them to serve within the church in a way that suits their personality and gifting. There may be a way for them to serve their peers in the youth group through leadership or prayer teams, but they could also serve the church in other ways. Consider if they would be a good fit to serve in the kids program, set up chairs before service, join the greeter team, or babysit or cook dinner for families in need of help.