Now that’s a title that is sure to ruffle some feathers, raise some eyebrows, and cause people to question my motives. Yes, I am a youth pastor, so obviously I’m going to say your family needs youth group. My goal in writing this is not to boost my youth group numbers or guilt you into sending your student, but to educate! To tell you the truth, for a long time, I wrestled with this question: “Why is youth group important?” It seems like most people in our culture don’t think it’s important considering the large amount of students who are not in youth groups, but that puts me in a tough spot because it’s my job. So, I’ve done some soul searching and taken that question before God in prayer to try to figure out why my job is even important. I’ve come up with 3 reasons why it is vital to your family that your child be at youth group every week. Just a forewarning, I feel very passionate about this because I myself am a product of the ministry that I am now leading. Here are my 3 reasons:
1. You need allies and echoes
When thinking about youth ministry parents might think like this:
“It’s the place where my kids go to have fun and do crazy things like drink a soda through a sock.”
“It’s the place where my kids go to make memories that will last forever.”
“It’s the place where my kids go to meet up with their friends.”
“It’s the place where my kids go so that big church doesn’t bore them.”
When I read quotes like that or hear things like that, to be honest with you I want to scream “NO! That’s not it.” Yes, every one of those quotes might be true, but youth group is so much more than that. That’s an extremely outdated idea of what we are all about. Let me explain. Your students hear voices every day telling them how they should live their lives. At home they hear: “Make sure you do your homework.” “I don’t want you going to that party.” “Make sure you and your girlfriend are staying out of trouble.” “Make sure you keep Jesus first in your life.” At school they hear: “Have you lost your virginity yet? “It’s just a little sip.” “No one really believes in God these days.” “Live crazy now while you’re young.” What I’ve seen is that in most student’s lives, the loudest voice wins. That makes for an extremely tough job for parents. Your kids are at school and with their friends for an average of 8 hours in the day. When they are not with their friends, they are on social media or watching TV. The voice of this culture screams so loud in your child’s ear and honestly, 50% of what is being said to your child you will never even know they heard. Then there’s you. You are incredibly influential in your child’s world and I’m not saying that your voice isn’t significant. I’m just saying that the voices of the world are many, and you are two parents telling your kids the tough truths that many times they might not want to hear. You love them and they feel it and that’s what you have going for you, but it’s still a war that is tough to win considering the odds. Your best shot is to stack the odds in your favor.
Every week we meet in small groups and students break out into groups with other students their own age to talk about life and to get mentored by a small group leader. No where else in the world is that going to happen for your child. You have an ally in that small group leader. You have in them someone who is fighting the same battle alongside you. They are instilling in your child the same values that you are instilling in them, and the beauty of it is, they have a different kind of influence then you have. They are your ally.
They are also your echo! Any time there is an echo, there is always a source. The source says something, and those words that were said are repeated back from several different directions. You are the source, the voice for Christian values in your child’s life. We are the echo. We say what you are already saying, but it’s being repeated from a different direction. Many times, your child needs to hear the same message from multiple sources in order to get it.
Here’s a beautiful example of how this principle works in our ministry. Last year during our dating series a young lady came up to me after youth group and said: “Pastor Anthony, everything you just said about dating I have heard my whole life from my parents, but I always just thought they were being way too protective.” She was communicating to me the echo principle! She heard it from her parents, but because there were a multitude of voices repeating the same thing, it brought validity to what her parents were saying. We want to be your ally and your echo, and in the cultural climate that your children live in, you need allies and echoes more than ever.
2. Your child needs Christian friends
Building on the allies and echoes idea is this idea that your child needs Christian friends. As your children walk through the hallways of their schools, they can definitely feel like the minority. As much as they need mentors to guide them, they need peers to walk alongside them. When what you’ve been taught your whole life is in direct contrast to what your peers are saying is cool or fun, it’s easy to feel alone and outcast. When the current of the world is so strong, it’s easy to get swept away if you don’t have strong peers to help you resist. Your children don’t just need that voice of godliness echoing toward them from the church, they also need it in the hallways. If it’s true that your students spend about 8 hours at school and with their friends per day, then parents and church just are not enough. Your children need to find the right influences to surround themselves with in the hallways.
Where are they going to find those influences? Youth Group.
I’m hoping you are beginning to see the importance of what we do and how we can be a resource to you and your family! Stack the front lines of your army by making sure your child is with us consistently. Make sure your values echo in their heart everyday by making sure they are surrounded by Christian mentors and Christian friends.
3. Your child needs to see church as a priority
As a pastor, I feel the weight of educating people on the importance of going to church. It’s not hard to see that we’ve gotten way off course in this area. We place far greater significance on things of temporal importance than we do on things of eternal importance. Children in this day and age are over saturated with sports, ballet, video games, plays, band practice… Then if there is a conflict between those events and church, many times, church loses. Now, that being said, students need to learn to live Godly in their community and meet other people so that they can live out the gospel outside of the walls of the church. I am very passionately against a church that sits inside of the four walls and never gets out into their community, so keep that in perspective as I say this. We have got our priorities out of order if we see the other fun things in our children’s lives as being more important than making sure that they are connected with others in the body of Christ. So, anytime I hear of a parent saying, we don’t let our students practice on Wednesday nights or Sundays so that they can go to youth group, I stop and thank God because that is so important yet so rare even in the church. That communicates to a child, church is important and everything else takes the back seat. I don’t expect 100% attendance. Imagine what is being communicated to a child if church isn’t prioritized.