Baptists > Ministries > Teenagers
 The Church Teen Ministry

Building an effective church student ministry
means understanding those mediums
and venues that can be effectively used
to communicate the Gospel of Christ

   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
   In 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 is now. 
   Furthermore, any attempt to reach them using outdated methodologies is nothing more than an excercise in defeat.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
methods.
   Search 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 for Christ.

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.

   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
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.

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.

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