I was recently at a lunch with someone and he asked me a great question that not many people ask. “What can I do to support the youth ministry?” The interesting part was that this was not a youth parent who asked this question. This person was primarily asking as a church member on how to be a good fellow church member. Instead of asking him to volunteer, although we love volunteers, I gave him a quick two-fold answer that I will expand here. These answers are primarily a response to someone who would be a parent.
To be a church member who supports the youth ministry, teach your family to love Jesus.
This might sound obvious but I wonder if it is obvious to the people who are around us a lot. In other words, is Jesus our primary love? Yes, insert here all of our failures because we all mess up and we all ruin our witness at some point. Still, this should not deter us from pursuing this. If you want to support the youth ministry, love Jesus in such a way that people know this about you. Fire begets fire. Passion begets passion. Have you ever been around someone who cheered for a certain sports team too much that you were enticed to cheer for them too? Have you ever been tempted into peer pressure because someone tried passionately persuading you to do something with them? Peer pressure never works if the person “selling” the argument is boring or unpassionate. Eeyore would be a terrible “peer pressurer”. If passion tends to entice and persuade people, how much more so would our youth be enticed to love Jesus if they see what Jesus means to you, how Jesus has changed you, and what hope Jesus gives you (1 Peter 3:15)? Why would anyone want to become a Christian if all they know are people who only like Jesus on Sunday morning? Without a love for Jesus, how can we expect to send students off to college who won’t get sucked into the culture of binge drinking, constant sexual hook ups, temptations for unbelief amidst an atheistic world, and peer pressure for substance abuse? How can we really expect students to go to bed on a Saturday night to go to church Sunday morning if they don’t love Jesus? How can we encourage someone to keep pursuing holiness if they don’t love Jesus? We need to make sure we come back to the most basic of foundations. What our youth need now more than ever is not all the correct answers to every apologetic, philosophic, and theological questions they are asked (although we should keep pursuing these!). Rather, what they need is to be surrounding by a church who loves Jesus in such a way that they are wooed, enticed, and persuaded to love Jesus with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. But, how can we expect our children to love Jesus if we look exactly like the culture? How can we expect our students to love Jesus if He isn’t a significant presence in our lives? How can we expect our students to love Jesus as He deserves to be loved if we don’t love Him the way He deserves? You fail. I fail. We all fail. I know that I have lived in such a way before where I was not the most attractive Christian and I made Jesus to look more ugly than more beautiful. We have all been like Peter before and epicly failed. But, here is the grace that Jesus gives us: He tells us to get back out there and keep pursuing Him and keep preaching Him. What a Savior! He isn’t looking for the healthy but for the sick who know how to keep running back to the doctor. Jesus didn’t call the rabbis and religious teachers of His day to follow Him. Jesus called the weirdos, the uneducated, and the ungifted. Jesus does not tell us to do this under our own strength but rather He empowers us to do this! If the almighty God empowers us to do this then why should we not pursue this? I briefly conclude with the first half of the answer by saying that if you want to support the youth ministry then love Jesus and teach your family to love Jesus. Without Him, there is no eternal life.
To be a church member who supports the youth ministry, teach your family to love the church.
One of the biggest growing statistics is that more and more students who grow up in the church are leaving the church when they go to college. Why do they leave the church? First, they leave the church because they don’t see the importance of the church. The church, for them, is another party competing for their schedule. As long as the church is seen as just another thing to do, why should they go to church when they have homework, fraternity and sorority parties, dates, campus ministries, friends to hang out with, and class to go to? If the church is just another thing that their family did “just because” then how can we expect them to go to church when they become in charge of their own schedules? This is even seen already when students are in middle school and high school. For the most part, they don’t show up on a regular basis to youth ministry because the church is not important to them. Besides, there are games, homework, practices, Netflix, projects, hobbies, friends to be with, video games to play, rest to catch up on, and even para-church ministries (as helpful as they can be!). Of course they won’t show up when they don’t think church is important because who wants to come listen to someone preach for 35 minutes, hang out with fellow believers, and support and be supported by others going through the same struggles as you? Sure, there is an argument that can be inserted about a past history with the church, bad relationships, bad youth workers, or because the preaching stinks. Nevertheless, this is the Bride of the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. This is a community that is still learning to repent! But again, why would I want to come listen to someone talk to me about somebody name Jesus and about my soul for 35 minutes when I could be catching up on homework or staring at a screen playing Fortnite or watching another episode on Netflix if the church is not important and no one has shown me that the church is important? If my parents (or even other church members) don’t act like the church is important, why should I act like it? Secondly, they leave the church because they don’t have an accurate view of the church. The church is not important because they don’t rightly and biblically understand the church. It’s the same when students neglect youth ministry in their own local church. A lack of understanding of the what church really is shows in its being neglected. Parents, pastors, and youth workers should be teaching our children an accurate “ecclesiology” (the study of the church). You don’t have to teach an exhaustive doctrine of the church but we should teach them a robust and healthy doctrine of the church. Only when our students see the beauty, majesty, plan, purpose, identity, mission, and the worthiness of the church will they then prioritize church. The only reason why a student in college goes to class is because her teacher told her that if she doesn’t go to class then she will fail her class. In other words, the teacher showed her that there was a lot riding on her showing up to class. In much the same way, unless we show, teach, and remind (a good summary word for this is catechize which is a lost form of teaching in the Church today) our children and youth the importance and value of the church in this world, in our lives, and for the glory of God then they will not prioritize church. For the most part, our students will not go to church in college if they don’t love Jesus and if they don’t know the value of the church. The goal is not merely to go to church; the goal is to worship God in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit as the Church which is expressed in the local church. In my own experience of being a college student and working for 5 years in youth ministry at some level, the children who grow up in a home that has not taught them the value of the church (no matter how many times they went to church or were apart of some ministry) are most likely not going to go to church when they go to college. This does not mean everyone who grows up in a family that undervalues church won’t go to church in college but there is typically a pattern. There are also children who grow up in a home where church is valued and parents love Jesus and yet they still don’t go to church. For the most part, this is my story and I am sensitive to the fact that this does happen. Nevertheless, when Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it”, it cannot mean anything less than these two answers. It certainly would imply more but it never implies less and never gets beyond this. Once again, Jesus is not calling the perfect parent who is also the perfect church member to produce the perfect child. Jesus is calling the repentant sinner who belongs to a community of worshippers of God to depend on the Spirit in order to faithfully raise up children to love Him and love His Bride. Jesus doesn’t want perfect parents; He wants repentant parents and a repentant church. You and I might have failed our entire lives up to this point but as long as He has given us His Spirit we can get back up and pursue this by His power. Dear church member, if you want to support the youth ministry, love the church in such a way where others are attracted to the church.