7 Things We’ve Learned about Reaching Today’s Youth

The statistics are staggering. The older a child gets today, the greater his or her chances are of disappearing from the church. The church must intentionally plan to reverse this trend.

Grace Community Church is built around a desire to reach people who may not have previously been interested in church. We love when people bring their friends. This vision extends to reaching the youth of our community. Along the way, we’ve learned a few things.

If the church wants to reach young people these days, here are 7 things we must do:

Love them – Young people today seem to crave genuine, no strings attached, healthy love from other adults…and they want it to be unconditional love…through the good times of their life and the times they mess up.

Be biblically true – Young people today don’t seem to want fluff. They want an authentic, honest approach to the Bible. Whether they believe all of it yet or not, they want people who say they believe it to teach what they believe…and be willing to discuss it with them if needed.

Be culturally relevant – Young people today have been exposed to the problems, challenges, and changes in the world today. They are more socially conscious than in years past. They want the church to be addressing the needs they see in the world around them.

Give them a place to serve and support them in their pursuits – Young people today want to make a difference. They want to be a part of change. They want to serve somewhere they believe is doing good work and makes a positive impact on the world and they may even want to help lead the effort.

Value their ideas and input - You have to allow young people to do things their way…with technology…within groups of friends…sometimes unscripted…etc. A church that is bent on protecting the past over creating the future turns young people away from the church.

Be genuine/transparent with them - Young people today want to learn from the mistakes of those older than them. Pretending as if we’ve always been wonderful doesn’t help them deal with the issues they are dealing with today. They need living examples of battling life’s temptations, struggles, and fears.

Guide them - Young people today want direction. They want help making life’s decisions, but they want it done in a way that helps them understand wise choices, but gives them freedom to choose their own path. Young people today need adults who will walk with them through the obstacles they face on a daily basis.

What would you add to my list? How is your church reaching the youth of today?

BTW, notice I didn’t say anything about music. It’s a bonus if you give them worship styles they enjoy, but I’m not convinced it’s a necessity if the others on this list are kept.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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11 thoughts on “7 Things We’ve Learned about Reaching Today’s Youth

  1. I'd encourage any church leader to go to NewCenturyMinistries.com and read Satan's Blog. Month after month I've posted a blog from Satan about what he wants Christians to do, and when you read the blogs, you'll find that we're doing those things. We're so caught up in traditions that we don't realize how far we've drifted from the true message Christ brought us. We're too focused on all the wrong things.

    According to the New Testament, the very purpose of the church meetings is not to get people to come to church meetings, it's to train the people to carry Christian love into the world and to encourage them in doing so. We've become focused on church attendance rather than on the mission. I do attend church every time, and I'm an elder in our local church, but somehow we've got to break the chains of our traditions.

    More and more we're moving toward a single service on a single day as the only thing the church really focuses on, and if you can't participate at that time on that day, well, tough. We need to learn that every day is the Lord's day–that the New Testament never tells Christians that Sunday is the "Lord's day" any more than Monday or any other day. We need to realize that saving faith is and must be faithful 24/7/365. We need to understand that biblical Christianity involves every Christian being a minister and the professional leaders being the coaches who train them to carry out their ministries.

    People reject fake, and too many of us put on a great show of being fakes. Jesus is not a fake. We need the Christian team gatherings if and only if those team gatherings focus entirely on training us to do our jobs and on encouraging us both when we fail and when we succeed. Heaven is for people who've learned to practice Christian love consistently–that's an important part of what will make it a paradise. God's serious about heaven and about the need to get ready for what's waiting there!

  2. Is it that they are leaving the church, or that their idea of "church" is different from the tradition of the last 100 years? I've noticed that many people are leaving the "church" but not leaving the Christian faith. Church is becoming less about going to a building each week and more about walking in faith with other followers of Jesus. I realize that walking with other believers is the point of church, but I think that people are finding other ways to do that (at least, myself and my friends are).

  3. One addition- You must reach the adults in their homes. Students will mirror the faith of the adults in their home when they leave the home regardless of what the youth ministry is doing (in most cases).

    • I would echo this one. It's also been one of the greatest challenges I've come across in student ministry.

      I found your WHY page regarding parent involvement and really like the thought there. What kind of percentage of parent involvement do you have? What have you found most useful for engaging parents in student ministry?

      • We are just beginning to experiment with parent partnerships. In six weeks I will have my first event on Sunday morning tailored for parents. Those parents (or guardians) who have a student on our high school retreat will get an overview of what was taught and how to support the life change we will champion on the retreat. We will have a few more events like this throughout the year. This 9th year of youth ministry for me will feel more like my first, but I am more hopeful about the long-term results than ever.

        "Church + Home" by Mark Holmen has been a helpful tool. This is all experimental, but I believe what Dr. Kenda Dean said at Baylor Chapel this week, "Students mirror the faith that is taking place in the home with amazing accuracy." So, I think it is a worthwhile experiment.

        By the way, we are thrilled with the results since eliminating Sunday morning class last year for high school students. We have an increasing number of students dropping out of youth ministry early and engaging in church leadership before graduation.

        • Praying for the experiment… I think you're right on track regarding long-term results. It's still amazing to me how students can go to an event/camp/conference and we get to see them engaged in these amazing experiences & conversations with God, then they go home and all the parents get is, "Yeah, it was cool…" I love your retreat follow up idea to help parents know and support what God's been doing. Makes me wonder why I haven't been doing more of that!? [facepalm]