I was encouraged again in how crucial Youth and Family Ministry is when I recently saw some shocking statistics. In a 2009 poll of one thousand people in their twenties who used to attend Bible-believing churches but who no longer attend, a whopping 40% of those who don’t believe first started to have doubts in middle school, and 44% first had doubts in high school. This is in contrast to only 4% who began to doubt in elementary school, and only 11% in college (Answers Magazine, July-Sept. 2011, 124).
In the same issue of Answers Magazine, Al Mohler gives some analysis and remedy worth considering:
…Kids are spending a very small amount of time in church activities, and many of those activities have very little theological, biblical, or spiritual content. As a result, we have a generation of young people who believe that there is a God, but they don’t have any particular god in mind…
When asked, “What steps can the church take to do better?” He explains:
Focus on expository preaching, and teach how to think biblically. The pulpit has to take responsibility. In far too many churches there is just no expository preaching [teaching that expounds on a particular text of Scripture]. There isn’t the robust biblical preaching that sets forth the Word of God and then explains how the people of God have to think differently and live differently to be faithful to that Word.
Show the seriousness of church, including personal accountability. The local church must be a robust gospel people. It must be a warm fellowship of believers. It must be a fellowship of believers who are really living out holiness and faithfulness to Christ, and being mutually accountable for that.
Otherwise, our kids will get the message: “You talk a lot about sin, but it’s really not all that important to you.” Or they will think the gospel is simply about moralism.
Give answers about current issues. We’re not giving our kids adequate information on some very crucial issues. [Think about] the questions the average teenager faces…
Explain how the gospel is unfolding through real history. …The Christian faith, the Christian truth claim, the gospel, is first of all a master narrative–a true story–about life, about God’s purpose to bring glory to Himself. It has four major movements: Creation, Fall, Redemption, Consummation…If we don’t anchor our children in that story, if they think that Christianity is merely a bunch of stuff to believe, if they don’t find their identity in that–in which they say, ‘Yes, that’s my story. This is where I am.” Then they are going to fall away.
Mohler was asked next, “What are parents doing wrong?” His answer is a timely reminder for those who have teens as well as those of us who have small children:
We’ve got to start treating young people as a mission field, not just assuming that mere nurture will lead them into Christian discipleship and into Christian faith.
Parents need to take a big responsibility here. The one thing we know from the entirety of Scripture is that parents have the non-negotiable responsibility to train, educate, nurture their own children into the faith, to confront them with biblical truth, to ground them in the Scriptures.
We also have, on the part of many Christian parents, a buy-in to a new secular understanding of parenthood. We are letting our children make big decisions far too early. So, when you have a 14-year-old, 15-, 16-, 17-year-old, making decisions about whether he or she is going to participate in church activities, be at church…that’s a child who is making decisions that should be made for him or her.
What steps can parents take to do better?
Teach God’s Word all the time, in everyday life. This is not something that you can do once a day, once a week, and say that’s done. That’s why I go back to Deuteronomy 6. It is a constant teaching opportunity.
I don’t mean a piece of chalk and a blackboard. I mean the kind of opportunity that comes from having seen something together and saying, “All right, how do we figure that out? What does that mean?” [i.e. watching a movie, reading the same book, talking about the news]
Help adolescents think through the big questions. Adolescence is the crucial point. For the first time they’re beginning to think about the big questions of life. When the lights go out at night, they’re trying to figure out, do I really know the meaning of life? Do I really know who I am? At that stage, don’t be afraid if your kid is asking questions … don’t be afraid to say, “I know there is a good answer for that. But I’m not sure right now I’m prepared to give the right answer for that. So we’re going to go find it together.”
(Al Mohler quotes are from Answers Magazine, July-Sept. 2011, 127-129).
I am so excited about Family Ministry because during this crucial stage of life, the church and parents both have the opportunity to make life-long disciples of Jesus as they consistently teach and apply God’s Word. This God-ordained partnership of the church and parents is for the good of teens and the glory of God!