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Teenagers and God: Where Kids Fit

teenagers and God

In life’s grand equation, teenagers and God are connected in profound ways. That’s because the most fundamental question young people in your community will ever wrestle with is “Why am I here?”

Unlike previous generations, teens today aren’t looking for the meaning of life. Instead, they’re searching for meaning in life, a purpose for living, something that makes life worthwhile. The fact is, they’re seeking the very thing for which God made them. That’s why it’s important that you consistently teach teens about their purpose in life.

The Bible teaches that God made everyone—even teenagers—with a purpose. For example, Colossians says, “For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible…everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him” (Colossians 1:16, MSG).

When it comes to teenagers and God, consider these questions: Do you think you’d see a difference in the life of your teenagers if they felt truly and wholly accepted by God? What if kids understood—deeply—that they belong to the family of God? Or that the hand of God is guiding them—deliberately—throughout life?

How do you think your teens would react if they discovered that God created them for a specific mission in life, and that he’s ready for them to start on that mission right now, regardless of their age?

Frankly, all this has always been true in terms of teenagers and God. But I think we often lose focus of this as we face the day-to-day challenges of ministering to teens in the 21st century. Yet, the Bible teaches that teenagers and God are lovingly linked because he had five purposes in mind when he made each of us. Discovering and living out these purposes is the single most important thing any of us can ever do, and as pastors, teaching these five purposes to teens is foundational to truly training them in the ways of the Lord.

Teenagers and God are linked because he created them to fulfill these five purposes:

1. God planned every teenager for his pleasure.

Can you imagine how different teenagers would be if they really, truly believed they’re made for God’s own joy? It’s such an important truth to tell teens that the first purpose for living is this: God planned you for his pleasure.

Revelation 4:11 says, “You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased” (NLT).

Yet most teenagers struggle with love and acceptance. We need to build into their lives the precious knowledge that God created them as an object of his love. And our kids need to know that nothing—absolutely nothing—can stop God from loving them. He loves and accepts teenagers, regardless of piercings and tattoos, exactly as they are.

2. God formed every teenager for his family.

Teenagers search for a group where they can belong, a place where they can feel accepted. And I believe they do this because God created each of us with a longing for belonging.

God gave us this longing because his second purpose in creating us is to become a member of his family. Ephesians 1:5 teaches us, “His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family” (TLB).

Teens might wonder if some of their friendships will survive a single summer. Yet God’s family—and our relationship with fellow believers—will extend for eternity. We need to teach our teens that the Christian life isn’t just a matter of believing; it’s also about belonging. God created us not just to be believers; he also made us to be “belongers” to his family.

3. God created every teenager to be like Christ.

Our heavenly Father created each of us to be like Christ, and we call that discipleship. God made us to transform us into the likeness of his Son, Jesus Christ.

As we often hear from evangelists: There isn’t—and never was—a Plan B in God’s design. You need to convey to teens the sense that they weren’t an accident. Their births and families are all part of God’s original plan. Despite our past mistakes, God works all things out for those who call on him and are called according to his purpose.

With teenagers and God, he’s still working the same plan he’s always had from the very beginning of time.

As pastors, God’s plan needs to become our plan—immediately. Our goal needs to be to help teenagers become more and more like Christ. Part of the process involves helping them understand how God will take them through everything Jesus endured—including loneliness, temptation, unpopularity, criticism and more. Only then can they truly become like him.

Looking over that list, it sounds as if Jesus lived the American teenage experience. Yet often when teens experience these circumstances, we do everything we can to fix the problem, without taking the time to determine if this is meant to make them more Christ-like. Helping teens see their problems from God’s perspective helps them submit to his sovereign hand as he transforms them.

4. God shapes every teenager for service.

God created each of us to serve him, and in the church, we call that ministry. Ephesians 2:10 teaches, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (NLT).

Because God created every Christian to serve, teens are called to ministry, created for ministry, saved for ministry, and uniquely gifted for ministry. The Bible makes it very clear that every Christian is a minister, regardless of age.

In your teachings about teenagers and God, remind young people they need not wait until they’re older before jumping into ministry. The God of the universe shaped them to serve, and they can start right now. And the earlier teens start, the sooner God’s fourth purpose for their lives—Christ-like service—will develop deep within.

5. God made every teenager for mission.

Knowing they’re created for a specific mission here on earth is a great encouragement for teens. Jesus said in John 17:18, “[Father], in the same way that you gave me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world” (MSG).

Every believer needs a ministry to believers and a mission to unbelievers. Teens can do both, serving believers and evangelizing unbelievers. In fact, you might even involve entire families as you all take a mission trip together or reach a neighborhood for Christ.

Studies show that most people who come to faith in Christ—at least in the United States—do so before age 18. Other studies reveal that people are far more receptive to hearing the Gospel from a friend than a stranger. This combination gives Christian teenagers an incredible opportunity for ministry and mission.

Keep these essential truths in mind as you ponder teenagers and God!

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Dr. Rick Warren is passionate about attacking what he calls the five “Global Goliaths” – spiritual emptiness, egocentric leadership, extreme poverty, pandemic disease, and illiteracy/poor education. His goal is a second Reformation by restoring responsibility in people, credibility in churches, and civility in culture. He is a pastor, global strategist, theologian, and philanthropist. He’s been often named "America's most influential spiritual leader" and “America’s Pastor.