Raising a teenager can be a challenging experience, and it's easy to let youth group attendance go off the grid. But why is the youth group important to the faith of their children? A youth group, or youth ministry, is an age-specific religious group that provides young people, usually 12 to 18 years old, with activities based on faith and spiritual awakening. It is a safe and accessible place for young people to meet and socialize in an informal setting. The youth group will be supported by adults, but it will be a place where young people design their own program and activities while developing a sense of community and participation.
At a time when terms related to “church growth” have praiseworthy status in ministerial leadership circles, the result may be low-quality youth ministry. Ultimately, helping young people grow spiritually in their formative years will equip them to have an impact on Christ both now and in their future. Available resources, youth personalities, and community culture influence what is offered through each church's youth group. A good youth worker is someone who can let go of their judgments, prejudices and can use interpersonal skills to inform and encourage young people to become aware of their rights, their voice and their responsibilities to the wider community.
Congregations do better when they partner with parents and grandparents to care for church youth, even when it doesn't look like a typical “youth group”. When parents and students think about committing to youth ministry, there may be good intentions that go out the window when busy schedules clash with church activities. But there are many benefits that come from attending a youth group. It provides opportunities to build skills and confidence while creating a sense of community and participation.
It also allows young people to reunite with their peers; they socialize and become part of the community in which they live; they allow young people to move from adolescence to adulthood; they care about encouraging personal growth and offering activities that challenge and stimulate young people. You don't have to think about the purpose of youth ministry before you start connecting teens to things like temptation, bullying, and the negative aspects of technology and popular culture. I recently had the opportunity to attend the National Youth Workers Convention, where Director of Youth Specialties Mark Matlock identified five things he believes Youth Ministry is doing for the Church today. Although not all LCMS churches can be large enough for a formal youth group, all churches can seize the opportunity to support families and young people through mentoring, encouragement and education. So, if you're looking for ways to help your teen grow spiritually in their formative years, consider joining a youth group.