It’s hard enough for teenagers to stay focused during school, let alone after school. For a typical teen, another two-hour block on Wednesday night where they can’t fully engage in social media may be a big ask. Sure, we try to keep their attention with our youth group games. But to be honest, the games they’re playing on their phones may be more fun!
3. More teens are choosing atheism.
According to the Barna Gen Z study, the average teen today is twice as likely than the average adult to be atheist. Barna calls this generation the first post-Christian generation in American history.
Where curiosity once abounded, cynicism now does. According to my buddy Jonathan Morrow of The Impact 360 Institute, many Christian teenagers don’t share their faith with others because they don’t want to be considered “extremists” by peers. In this culture, it’s increasingly difficult for teenagers to assert that Jesus is the way, truth and life. Even associating with a typical Christian youth group can cause a teenager to be marginalized by some peers. In today’s charged climate, it’s easier for teens to not attend youth group than to admit they do, especially if it’s “evangelical.”
What’s the answer?
So how do we turn the tide? How does a youth ministry program get out of the ’80s to better capture young hearts and minds for Christ?
This may surprise you, but the answer is not trying to get ahead of the cultural curve by becoming more hip, digital and fun. Instead, the answer is to pull a Marty McFly and get in the DeLorean, accelerate to 88 mph and go back in time. But unlike Marty, we’re not stopping in the ’50s. We’re going back 2,000 years or so to connect with Peter, Paul and Dr. Luke (the author of Acts).
What do we find there? We find the excitement of being part of a movement. It’s something teenagers can’t get from a smart phone or YouTube. There’s deep fellowship, passionate prayer, unashamed evangelism (Acts 2:42-47) and the 7 values of a Gospel Advancing, disciple-multiplying ministry.
In Acts, we find a church on fire led by people on fire who can’t keep the fire to themselves. We find exciting stories and intense persecution. The spiritual movement is so compelling it turned the early world upside down (Acts 17:6.) We find a “formula” for re-energizing our youth ministry program with the stuff that revivals are made of.
Teenagers today, as busy and distracted as they are, and as cynical as they can be, long for significance and security. The ultimate significance is found from being on a mission with Christ to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Ultimate security comes from having a heavenly Father who loves them unconditionally. Plus, they get a tribe of brothers and sisters in Jesus who encourage them every step of the way.
Get your youth ministry program out of the ’80s
Go back to Acts and implement the original blueprint for the church. Then bring it all back to the future. Bring it back to your youth group. Not only will attendance begin to grow, but your teens will grow in spiritual maturity.
Don’t worry: Your youth ministry program can still play dodgeball and have pizza. And those are two awesome things that even the early church didn’t have.
By the way, what was your favorite movie from the ’80s?
This article originally appeared here.