Life After Youth

When you take a look at a typical youth group gathering, what is the general age-range of those present? You might respond (rather sarcastically) that the participants’ ages are in their teens because they are “youth.” At the risk of “insulting your intelligence” further, let me ask you another question. When you consider the activities, studies and topics discussed and experienced in youth group, what age-range is the target? Right, I know. Obviously, they’re teens — but, they won’t always be.

As a former youth group member-turned-pastor, I join the ranks of many of you as one who has “been there.” You and I are also no longer there. My point is this: If our focus in youth group is solely to meet teens where they are, how are we preparing them for life beyond youth group?

In my teen experience, youth group played an important role in God teaching and leading me. I can say with the Psalmist, “Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds” (Ps. 71:17). As I reflect on who was “in the room” during my time in youth group, it wasn’t only those in my peer group. I had influences from caring adults who would listen and tell stories of God acting in their lives. They weren’t just recent college grads, either. They were adults with children, some without, and seniors whose children had moved on. All of them received me as part of their family – God’s family. They are the ones who continued reading as the Psalmist wrote, “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, you mighty acts to all who are to come.”

Mixing it up in youth group not only builds generational bridges, but it provides a more well-rounded spiritual education for our teens. These who are “further down the road” can speak truth into the teens’ lives from their personal walk with Christ. They can help keep us on track in terms of realizing that these teens will soon be adults. It will keep us from equipping our teens to be experts in adolescent issues but ignorant of lifelong issues that will affect their spiritual journey.

Scriptures teach the value of generations investing in one another (see Deuteronomy 6, Psalm 78 and Titus 2 among others). As we invest in youth, we should be sure to keep this biblical teaching in mind as we minister. Consider the following as you evaluate your current group:

  • Do you have leaders or sponsors in your group that provide the perspective of another generation?
  • Are multiple generations represented on your youth board or committee at your church?
  • Are there some parents you might enlist to be actively involved in youth ministry, equipping them to be “youth pastors”?
  • Who are some seniors who are still declaring God’s marvelous deeds and could invest in teens?
  • Are the issues and studies you provide not only meeting teens where they are but also preparing them for launch into adulthood?

The Church is the family of God, and this family can and should provide a community in which our teens can thrive as they follow Christ through adolescence and beyond. We should look beyond the walls of our youth room to find others who can come alongside to provide the best for our youth. As we do, perhaps our response to the earlier questions won’t be quite so sarcastic.

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