Youth Group and the Reluctant Teen

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My teen does not want to be part of a youth group. Now what?

There is no easy answer to whether or not parents should force their children to attend youth group when they have expressed a disinterest. In some part, it seems fitting – we know what is best (or so we like to think, sometimes only to discover we were wrong). Just like eating a nutritious meal or studying for that big exam, being involved in a youth group can be both satisfying and valuable for spiritual growth.

On the flip side, there is no biblical command to be involved in a youth group, let alone how often kids should attend or what activities they should participate in. Therefore, some parents question the possible ramifications of forcing these reluctant teens to go. Unlike sports, academics, or other achievement-based activities, there is no perceived “cost” if they do not attend.

Then we read Hebrews 10:24-25:

And let us consider [thoughtfully] how we may encourage one another to love and to do good deeds, not forsaking our meeting together [as believers for worship and instruction], as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more [faithfully] as you see the day [of Christ’s return] approaching. (AMP)

So now what?

Talk with your teen.

We as parents should check the hearts of our children in a collaborative way, where we are not only talking but actively listening. If I have learned anything during this season of parenting, it’s that teens are more receptive to conversations when we talk WITH them and not TO them. It does not have to be a formal sit-down to discuss at length the follies of their hearts. Conversations can be casual throughout day-to-day interactions and will vary from teen to teen.

When talking with your teenager, ask “what keeps you from wanting to go to youth group?” Then be ready to listen for some possible reasons: rebellion versus anxiety over the unfamiliar, melodrama versus fear of rejection, or laziness versus overinvolvement. For those teens who have not yet trusted Christ, youth group can be very overwhelming. Kids may fear they will be rejected as non-believers or embarrassed that they are not familiar with the Bible or lack an understanding of faith.

Some of these issues can be resolved by inviting a friend, or having a friend meet them outside to walk into the group together to deescalate those fears of awkwardness and anxiety.

Talk with your teen, again.

As parents we are entrusted to raise up and equip believers who are maturing in their faith to be able vessels sent out for the gospel. Discuss what it looks like to be integrated into a group of like-minded believers. Explain how a maturing faith develops as their personal relationship with the Lord grows, not immediately at the moment of salvation. All too often teens focus on perfection through works to earn acceptance and salvation. We must redirect them to Christ’s perfection as the only way we receive saving grace. In Him they will find forgiveness and belonging despite imperfections.

Talk about how a maturing faith is displayed in how we interact with others. In community we develop a desire to be more like Christ in the way we love others, care for those who are suffering, and forgive when we are wronged, as well as confess and confide our struggles with sin.

Help them to remember relationships are built when we come together in worship, sitting under the same teaching, fellowshipping through meals, activities and serving one another. We come to know that being a Christian is not dreary or confining. Instead, we experience the promised freedom and joy in Christ during all circumstances of life. This becomes difficult when we are not spending time together.

Keep talking with your teen.

Keep coming back to the conversation. Repeat the gospel often and emphasize the importance of a community of believers. Discuss what the Bible says about who the church is. Remind your teen we are not meant to live life on our own (1 Corinthians 12:12-26, Romans 12:4-13). They may argue, roll their eyes and tell you they do not want to hear it, or even walk away. Take heart. God uses the seeds you are planting for the glory of His kingdom. It is not in our power to grow our children’s faith, but we can rest in the power of the Lord to mature and to sustain our children.

Talk some more with your teen.

Okay. Okay. You might be thinking – enough with all this talking! My teen will not even acknowledge that words are coming out of my mouth. Press on brothers and sisters! Remind your child what Paul wrote to Timothy:

Let no one look down on [you because of] your youth, but be an example and set a pattern for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in [moral] purity.1 Timothy 4:12 (AMP)

Your teen is capable of becoming an able vessel for the gospel now. There is not a delayed entrance into a maturing faith because of their age or lack of experience. Help them to discover their spiritual gifts, encourage them to cultivate and use those gifts – now.

Pray with your teen.

Whether your teen has trusted Christ or not, prayer is our greatest weapon against the enemy. The intimate bond developed over time between the Lord and His praying children is insurmountable. After all, the “heartfelt and persistent prayer of a righteous man (believer) can accomplish much [when put into action and made effective by God- it is dynamic and can have tremendous power]” (James 5:16 AMP).

Pray in private and with your teenager that they would be satisfied in the Lord’s steadfast love and He would develop in them a desire to build relationships with like-minded believers. Our children WILL find a peer group. Pray without ceasing that it will be a group that points them to Christ, builds them up in the Word, and propels them on a path to a maturing faith.

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