Running a youth group is an unlikely task for me, by many measures. I pastor a Reformed church that subscribes to the Westminster Confession of Faith and takes its theology very seriously. I’m not a fan of the goofy, evangelical impulse to separate kids from the rest of the congregation whenever possible. I don’t swallow goldfish or do other stunts to try to impress kids.
At my age, any cool I may have had is long gone. So why am I in my ninth year running our church’s youth group? The simple answer is because I love the kids. I believe youth group is a valuable ministry that God is using.
Why Youth Group Still Matters
When our congregation discussed starting a youth group more than 10 years ago, parents met to brainstorm. We made such a comprehensive list that no one in their right mind would ever take on the ministry. No way was our congregation going to hire a “professional” youth minister. This youth group would have to be a labor of love.
I decided the only way to launch the ministry was to just pick a date and start. So I did. My plan was simple: Have fellowship time, play a game or fun activity, study the Bible, enjoy a snack, and pray. We’d meet every other week for two hours. We’d throw in extra activities from time to time, and we’d include service opportunities as well.
To make it work, I recruited a few young adult helpers. Because we had students from ages 12 to 18, we split into smaller groups—each led by a different adult—for Bible study. This got young people into a small group where they could actively participate.
Last evening, four adults and 19 young people attended our youth group meeting. We learned a new game, prayed for each other, and studied Hebrews 10:1-18. Then we gathered for a snack. Simple yet profound.
Over the years, I’ve been blessed to see students arrive at age 12 and mature through high school. I’ve worked with younger siblings of students I taught when we first started. I’ve watched them grow as young men and women of God. Plus, I’ve watched them encourage younger children. I’ve seen mentor-type relationships develop with adult helpers. And I’ve seen more of the fruit of the Spirit and growth in the disciplines of grace.
Youth Group IS the Church
Our youth group is not an appendage to the church. It is the church. The young people don’t identify with the youth group or a youth pastor. They know the youth group is simply a ministry to encourage them in their service to Christ and His church.
I’m thankful for the men and women who are part of this ministry in our congregation. Their steadfast investment in young people is bearing fruit. I’m thankful this ministry allows kids who are homeschooled, who attend public schools, and who attend Christian schools to spend time together during the week. I’m thankful that kids with special needs are welcome. Finally, I’m thankful our students feel comfortable enough to invite their friends to join.
Youth group is not for every church. And it’s certainly possible to do youth group in a way that’s counterproductive to the spiritual development of young people. But this ministry can be a tremendous blessing to participants as well as leaders.
May God give us discernment as we work with young people in our congregations. And by His grace, may we see young men and women becoming faithful servants in His church. “May our sons in their youth be like plants full grown, our daughters like corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace” (Psalm 144:12, ESV).
This article originally appeared here.