August 8, 2012

The Church's Responsibility to Teens

Present circumstances - not the least of which is the fact that my girl enters high school next month - have caused me to do a lot of thinking about the church's responsibility to teenagers. As I look over the youth ministry landscape, I see a lot of events meant to entertain rather than educate. Ravi Zacharias, speaking of youth in this month's Tabletalk, said it well:  "Building their faith is not a prime strength in our churches today. We seem to think that we need to entertain them into the church. But what you win them with is often what you win them to."

Today's active youth group seems more focused on fellowship and service than discipleship. I don't discount the benefits of spending time with believers or our calling to serve others, but I question the profitability of a youth group that doesn't balance these activities with in-depth Bible study. 

Sadly, many churches shy away from such Bible study. Perhaps they fear they will scare kids away, or that it will be too much for them to handle.  I agree with Danny Aikin.
If our schools can teach our children chemistry and biology, physics and geology, algebra and geometry, political science and economics, then we can certainly teach them theology and apologetics, Christian ethics and philosophy.
Yet youth ministry seems to follow so many other ministries that promote quantity rather than quality. It's a mentality that seeks to keep us so busy that we don't notice what we're missing.

Parents cannot rely on the youth group as the sole source of our teen's spiritual nourishment. We must be actively involved in their theological education. However, the church also bears some responsibilities to its members, regardless of age (see Ephesians 4:11-16 and Matthew 28:19-20).

I believe our responsibilities to youth go beyond discipleship and equipping. In Titus 2, Paul instructs Titus of these additional responsibilities.  Women are charged to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children,to be self-controlled, pure,working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. (vv. 3-5) We cannot wait until girls are in their 20s before we begin teaching these concepts. Girls develop their ideas about dating and marriage while they are still teenagers. It is imperative that the older women in the church invest in the lives of teen girls to instruct them on Biblical womanhood.

Likewise, Paul instructs Titus that older men have a responsibility to train the young men. A boy needs to be instructed in Biblical manhood long before he can register to vote.

Teens need time dedicated to this instruction, apart from one another and the pressures of male/female relationships. Giving them this valuable time in a single-sex setting offers a safe environment where honest questions can be asked and forthright answers given. Ideally, such teaching will enhance and reinforce what is being taught at home; however, in many cases it will actually give youth vital instruction they aren't receiving from their parents.

Even though the concepts of Biblical manhood and womanhood may not draw the numbers churches might want, we cannot overlook the fact that the Holy Spirit compelled Paul to give Titus these guidelines for the Church. When youth ministries do not encourage teaching according to Titus 2, they shirk the responsibility of discipling participants and leave the future generations to reap the consequences.


Christina said...

Thank you so much for writing this post, Melissa. We are about 5 months into our young women's ministry for pre-teens and teens. The church must realize that if we do not teach our daughters (and sons!) the world will. It's a challenge for sure as so much of the world's thinking has infected even the church -- but by faith and perseverance it is not impossible! Love and blessings to you and God bless your daughter!

Aimee Byrd said...

So true! Although we have a great youth leader who is currently taking the kids through 1 John and Hebrews, it is also important for us women to take our Titus 2 obligations seriously. I think sometimes the adults are intimidated by the teens, and think that they are not interested in a relationship with them. I've found that although you may have to step out of your comfort zone, it couldn't be further from the truth. I find that teenage girls treasure relationships with older mentors.

Persis said...

Well said, Melissa. Parents and the church need to step up to the plate re: caring for teens and not excuse delinquency by blame-shifting the other party.