Three Responses to a Teenager Resisting Youth Group

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While talking with a youth pastor’s wife recently, I listened to her lament the challenges of youth ministry during the pandemic. She said she was most concerned about what youth group would look like when life returned to normal. Her concern was mostly related to the students who attended inconsistently before COVID, and who were now completely out of the weekly routine of youth group.

As parents, we have a responsibility to consider how we can support youth ministry in our churches, but what can we do when a child is resistant to attending, whether during the pandemic or when youth groups begin regular meetings again? How should we respond when a teenager says they simply don’t want to go? Here are three responses to consider if your child is resisting connecting with your church’s youth ministry.

Listen
Youth groups are a means of God’s grace for teens, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t pushback from time to time. Listening intently is important and shows your teen that you acknowledge her perspective. Is it that she doesn’t have many close friends who attend? Is she is having trouble connecting with a particular leader? Or is she perhaps struggling with doubt, leading her to want to withdraw a bit?

Perhaps there are some good reasons for her not wanting to attend. In that case, it’s important to seek solutions with our teenagers. Rather than jumping in to fix things for them, listening gives us an opportunity to help them wrestle through the issues and to guide them in problem-solving. The solution may be something as simple as meeting with a youth minister in order to lovingly share concerns and attentively listen to his or her insights. Listening shouldn’t result in passivity but in activity, and by God’s grace, it may even lead to a conversation that draws you closer to each other.

Pray for these conversations and ask the Lord to open the door for good, healthy discussion and an abundance of wisdom to know how to respond. And saturate the youth ministries in your church with prayer. If you believe church ministry to our teens is valuable, then it’s certainly worth the time to listen and discuss ways to overcome some of the hurdles that are keeping them from attending.

Exhort
Sometimes listening should lead to exhortation – communicating with encouragement and strong urging. There are a couple reasons to exhort our kids to attend youth group.

First and foremost, youth ministry within the local church exposes our kids to the gospel. As Christian parents, we want our children have as much exposure as possible to the good news that Jesus came to earth, died for our sins, and rose again. This is the hope we all need to be reminded of on a daily basis. Youth group meetings outside of regular Sunday morning worship reinforce gospel truths so that, by God’s grace, our kids will begin to know, grasp, and understand God’s love for them. We exhort our teenagers to attend out of a desire to see them grow spiritually.

Involvement in youth ministry also teaches our kids what it means to have the church be a part of their daily liturgies. The body of Christ is a precious gift, and the Lord cares about our involvement in it (Heb. 10:25). Many of the patterns our teens set now will follow them into adulthood, and our hope is that connection to the Body of Christ will not be merely one of many activities to choose from, but a necessary part of their daily routines.

Lastly, the exhortation to attend comes from having a broader perspective on what a teenager’s attendance means for the body. Your teenager may not have considered that his participation is not just about him, but an encouragement to the body of Christ. Youth leaders put time and energy into lessons, games, and preparations, so your teen’s presence is a way of showing love and respect for the care provided. Other students need your teen’s presence. We all know that in junior high and high school, numbers encourage numbers. The urging to attend is for the sake of the group as a whole – each teenager is an important part of a larger body of believers.

Exemplify
One of the greatest temptations we fall into is having a consumer mentality when it comes to our churches. There is no perfect church, so it’s easy to find things to complain about. The most important thing is that our churches are faithfully teaching the Scriptures and leading God’s people in spirit and in truth (2 Tim. 4:3). If you’ve made a commitment to a church because you believe in its mission and ministry, then the primary question should be: “What can I give?” rather than, “What can I get?”

We are called to live this out as parents, setting the example by seeking ways to serve—even in the midst of a pandemic. Perhaps there’s a ministry, even over Zoom, that might be encouraged by your presence. It’s important that we consider our own participation not only for our own spiritual vitality, but for the sake of setting an example for our kids.

For many of us, the online platform has become so convenient that returning to in-person worship seems unlikely. For others, consistent, weekly worship has just stopped. God is good, and He is so gracious. If this has happened in your house, ask Him to give you a renewed hunger and thirst for worship, whether online or in person. Ask Jesus to open your eyes to the places you can involve yourself even now in order to strengthen your relationship both with God and with His people. You are an important part of a larger body of believers.

Be encouraged that God is at work in our teenagers hearts—even in the midst of our inconsistencies—and that His work continues even when your teenager is resistant to attending youth group. God is so good, and he loves our kids more than we ever could. In their resistance, point them to His faithful love, which we pray will draw their hearts to know Jesus more.

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