* Teens don’t show up because they don’t think God is showing up.
Our desperation to be "hip", "current", and "relevant" has often resulted in a shallowness that must be offensive to Jesus...shallow preaching, shallow music, shallow language, etc. The truth is that depth matters; relationships matter. Ministry is more than simply pizza and volleyball...
"Sooner or later, everyone wants substance, and if it isn’t there, they’re going to bail. There’s always going to be a church (or someplace else) with better pizza, a more talented band, a better gym and bigger crowds with hotter people. It’s okay to use draws, but you’d better have a good foundation for your ministry and back up the draw with something real."* Teens don’t make church a priority because their parents don’t make it a priority.
As in every aspect of life, we lead by example. It is crucial for parents to be involved in worship and ministry if they desire to see their children involved in worship and ministry....weekly...daily.
Additionally, parents must begin to say, "Sorry; worship of Almighty God is more important than soccer or basketball or sleeping in. You can't participate in that league if they require Sunday morning participation." Shane adds, "I’ve realized that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with making teenagers go to church."
That's Christian parenting. It's a shame if the kids have to miss out on sports or other activities, but what if...what if their souls are at stake? Is that a possibility? Parents ignore this piece of parenthood at their own peril, and at the possible expense of their children's spiritual walk. Priorities matter, and your children are watching...and learning.
* Teens are very connected to each other now and don’t need church to hook up anymore.
More could be said about this. We have largely forgotten in the church what real, authentic "community" is all about and why relationships founded on Jesus are far deeper than others. Shane makes the point that, "...there’s probably somewhere or something else that does community better than church." Penitence is needed on the part of the church. We need to be in prayer about this one.
* Unchurched teens see no significant difference between church kids and everyone else.
This was certainly true when I was a teen. The cruelest kids in my high school were often myself and other members of my church youth group. That isn't to say we didn't take Jesus seriously, but living that out is extraordinarily difficult.
As a parent and as a pastor, I see that teen members of the church I am serving are often just as drama-driven and hormone-driven as those who are "outside the church". It's heartbreaking but it's true. I certainly need to be more intentional about mentoring these fine young people, whom I truly love. We all need to do better and be more more faithful.
* Many teens get impatient with churches that major on the minors and try too hard to seem relevant.
Welcome to life in The United Methodist Church, where we have made this into an art form. We often teach our young people - either directly or indirectly - that aspects of the faith such as Jesus, his Lordship, Biblical study and reflection, and/or doctrine are secondary to ridding the world of malaria or to having an open heart, an open mind, and an open door.
Please don't misunderstand me. Fighting malaria is a noble cause, and if a pastor or congregation is passionate about it, then I am all for it. Likewise, it is appropriate to be available to discuss "out of the mainstream" ideas and approaches to life.
But these ministries should not be emphasized at the expense of other pieces of our journey in faith. Teens are not stupid. They can see when we are "majoring on the minors" and, if necessary, they'll find a community where all the means of grace are taken seriously, rather than just a few which have been carefully selected to be as least offensive as possible.
I commend to you Shane's original post, and urge prayerful reflection on this important subject.