Article by Greg Stier
Youth ministry is often dismissed as something less than strategic in far too many churches. Some even view it as a kind of glorified babysitting. In their thinking, teenagers need just enough games and God to keep them coming back….until they are old enough to make a difference in the church. The unspoken implication is that teenagers aren’t “real members” until they are old enough to have jobs, give offerings and serve in the big boy/big girl roles of the church. But Jesus didn’t wait for the disciples to get out of their teen years to appoint them as “real” apostles. He appointed them to lead the charge while they were still in their teen years. Do you find that hard to believe? Then check out Matthew 17:24-27 where Peter, Jesus and the disciples go to Capernaum but only Peter and Jesus pay the Temple Tax. If you cross reference this passage with Exodus 30:14 you’ll see that this particular tax, originally the Tabernacle Tax, was only applicable to those 20 years and older.
All the disciples were there but only Peter and Jesus paid the Temple Tax. That means that, 11 of the 12 apostles, were teenagers when they began to follow Jesus. Why in the world would Jesus choose mostly teenagers to lead the charge for the most important mission in history? Wrestle with that question! How can you utilize and mobilize the teenagers in your youth group for community-wide impact like Jesus did? Wrestle through that question too!
Here’s a few realities to think about as you do:
1) Teenagers come to Christ quicker than adults.
Almost 70% of those who trust in Christ as their Savior do so by the time they are 18 years of age. Let that sink in for a moment.
If I was a businessman and I knew that 70% of those most likely to purchase my product were 18 years old and younger, then I’d put at least 70% of my marketing dollars into reaching them. But most churches do the complete opposite!
The typical church focuses the majority of their marketing (aka “outreach”) dollars into reaching the adults in their communities for Christ. From Christmas pageants to Easter outreaches to special sermon series, the majority of our church-wide efforts and budgets are put into reaching adults for Jesus. Meanwhile, the majority of youth ministries across the United States today are vastly underfunded. I talk to youth leaders from coast to coast who have to scrape and scrap by to raise enough money to for camps, conferences and curriculum. With a lot of prayer and a little duct tape, they generally pull it off. But they have to work extra hard to make it happen week in and week out (fundraisers, letters to parents, etc.) It’s a shame so many youth ministries are undervalued and underfunded. Down deep inside, there must be an inner voice that whispers in church leaders’ ears things like, “Well adults are the ones who are going to fund this church, not teens or children.”
But since when did church outreach become about building church budgets? As the church our currency comes in the form of souls saved, not checks cashed. And, because teenagers are far more open to the Gospel than adults are, we must, as the Southern expression goes, “get the gettin’ while the gettin’s good.”