Keeping teen-agers in church
Years later as a young couple, my husband Joe and I continued the practice of positive reinforcement with our children. Not far from our church a hospital had huge fountains with colored lights. On our way home from church we would often take our children to the fountains to let them run around the edges near the sparkling, spraying water. Their squeals of delight disclosed their pleasure and excitement. Other than the frequent visits to the fountain following Sunday evening church services, we rarely did this activity. They also got an ice-cream cone almost every Sunday after church.
The form of the positive reinforcement varies as children reach their teens, but remains effective.
Parents should not panic when they hear, "Do I have to go to church today?" It doesnt necessarily mean your child no longer loves the Lord, nor should there be a tirade about the importance of church attendance. Say, "As long as you live at home, we will all attend church together on Sunday."
When giving important messages to teen-agers, the fewer words used, the better.
Once my daughter said, "Mom, I never know all the bad stuff that goes on at church like some of my friends do." I told her if she ever had a question about what she heard to come to me and I would tell her the truth the best I could.
You have only five short years to keep each of your teen-agers in church (ages 13-18). It is so important during these years to keep your home teen friendly. This probably is not the time to buy new carpet or fine furniture. The home needs to be a place where teens will relax and have fun. We often had 50 teen-agers in our small home after Sunday night service. Nothing fancy. Teens love pizza, popcorn or cookies.
Teens also love to be bunched up and crowded. There were spills on the carpet; a favorite rocking chair was broken. Yet, they are joyous memories.
As a youth, I attended a small Assemblies of God church. There was no youth pastor. But a precious, loving adult (Alice May Dye), who taught our teen Sunday school class, had us in her home almost every Friday night for popcorn, games and a devotional.
When the teens are all at your house you never have to worry about where your teens are.
The local church is strengthened when it offers varied activities for youth. Youth leaders need energy, vigor and intensity coupled with patience and persistence. Some teens who cannot excel at Bible quiz will be superior in a puppet ministry or in musical activities. One youth group I know visits a nursing home every Friday night and has a sing-a-long with the residents. Everyone benefits nursing home patients, the youth and the church they represent. The nursing home now serves pizza and ice cream after their activity.
Youth activities should be more than just fun and games. Churches need to find creative ways to involve teens in ministry making sandwiches for the homeless, adopting a grandparent, doing chores for shut-ins. Teens need to learn the joy of giving and doing for others.
Sunday school lessons and youth night sermons should be directed at helping teens face the issues they are dealing with at home and school. Teens need to be taught how to apply the teachings of Jesus. The Bible addresses delicate issues: Homosexuality is sin; sex outside of marriage is wrong; abortion taking a life is forbidden; gossip can be worse than murder; criticizing is evil.
But the eyes remain the same. Look into their eyes as I did last night at church. Those of us over 50 formed a line and had the teens pass in front of us. We were to lay our hands on them and pray for them. When I looked into their faces and their eyes, not much has changed. Many came with tears rolling down their cheeks wanting Gods leading. Some came very shyly, eyes downcast, not sure of themselves. Some were almost expressionless. Yet they all came. They wanted to be prayed for; they welcomed a hug; they needed to be accepted and appreciated.
The challenge to the current adult generation is to make our churches a place where a teen any teen (even with green hair, earrings, baggy pants) will feel the love of Jesus Christ. The way to keep todays teen in church is to fill it with love. Teens recognize the real thing. Money spent on pizza, pop and ice cream is well invested. Then teach them; involve them. Utilize their talents in worship, in ministry, in outreach. Help them to associate the church with pleasant times where they are taught how to live in todays world.
Teen involvement in church means parent involvement in church. Every activity mentioned takes volunteer time. One person cannot conduct all of these activities; it takes a team. None of these teen activities just happen. They take time, effort and planning.
Soon, should the Lord tarry, todays teens will be our youth pastors, our pastors and our church leaders.
Pray for the teen-agers you know. Ask the Lord to build a wall of protection about them. Ask Him to guide them in every activity. Prayer changes things; prayer changes teens.
From Family: How To Have a Healthy Christian Home (Springfield, Mo: Pentecostal Evangel Books, 1999). Reprinted with permission. To order copies of this book at $5.99 each, please call 1-800-641-4310 and ask for item # 02KS1034.
| Articles | Subscriptions
| News & Notes | Talk-Back
| Meet the Staff | Writers
| ABCs of Salvation | Who We Are | Life's Q&A | From Our Files | Pentecostal Evangel Books |
©1998-2000 Gospel Publishing House, General Council of the Assemblies of God