A visitor to the Christian-Parent.com web site asks the following question:
“I have had a pressing problem with making a decison about my church. I love my church and felt lead to go there but they do not have a youth group for my kids. My kids 13 AND 15 HATE IT! I have been forcing them to go! They like Sunday services but THEY WANT TO go to another church. And I know that they do need other kids their age to be with and I know teens have it so hard today! But I truly love my church and know God placed me there! Should I go find them another church? Or would it be right to let them say go to another church just for the youth on Wednesday? And not be a part of the church? I have talked to the pastor and he says they are praying for a husband and wife team for a heart of teens to come to our church. But what do I do in the mean time? They really hate going and they don’t feel apart of it.”
Families with teens face this same problem every day. What’s the right answer? The truth is, there are many different possible answers to this tough question.
Some people would tell you to stick it out, if that’s where the Lord has called you to be, but after talking to a number of parents of teens myself, I have come to a couple of conclusions.
I have a daughter in high school and a step-daughter in middle school and I also work with our church’s high school youth group. Our church has grown a lot over the last 5 years and there are now 150+ kids in the high school youth group.
Many of the parents will tell you that they came to our church just because of the youth group. Their kids are now plugged in and serving the Lord. They bring their friends, and sometimes their friends keep coming and maybe even their families.
On the other hand, some families have left our church because for one reason or another their kids didn’t feel part of the large group and found another youth group somewhere else they got plugged into. They’re also serving the Lord.
Then there’s the families that go to one church and let their teens attend youth group at another church because their teens feel more comfortable there.
So what’s the right answer? The bottom line is your teens need to be where they feel plugged in and where they are spiritually growing and can serve the Lord. I don’t think people should change churches/youth groups just because they’re “not happy.” But in a case where you don’t think the leadership is strong and there just aren’t the other kids to support each other, your kids are in danger of quitting church completely (even if they wait until after high school to do it). This happened to me when I was a teen, and it took me 15 years to come back to church and a relationship with the Lord. I have seen it happen many times. Some kids never come back. Don’t let yours be one of the statistics!
The important thing is not whether or not your kids are going to your church’s youth group (or church services), but whether or not they are growing spiritually. If you pray about what is the best choice for them and let them explore some different options (weekly Bible studies, outreach ministries, etc.), the Lord will show you where they belong.
I do urge you not to put it off, though. Kids at this age need the support of mature Christian adults more than ever to get them through these tough years. Even the “good kids” will have a tough time and need that support. Working through this will also be a good lesson for them, teaching them how to make good choices for themselves.
Rachel Paxton is a freelance writer and mom of four. For resources for the Christian family, including parenting, toddler and preschool activities, homeschooling, family traditions, and more, visit http://www.Christian-Parent.com