Why Youth Stay in Church

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I had a conversation about youth ministry a few weeks ago with a friend. Jennifer and I started working in youth ministry almost 19 years ago, and we have been blessed to teach and mentor hundreds of youth over that time.

During my conversation, I started sharing success stories of the youth who have gone into ministry and mission work, and those who have succesful careers and are serving in their churches. But I was also quick to point out that we have former youth who have struggled. Some have struggled with drugs and alcohol, some are even in jail, some are already divorced, some have fallen away from church, and some are even now atheists. Here’s my point. In ministry, we do what we can, but ultimately, each person is responsible for living their life. I was reminded of what the Apostle Paul shared to the Corinthian church.

1 Corinthians 3:5-7 NLTAfter all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.

If we take credit for the success, then we are also the ones to blame when bad things happen. In youth ministry, we really only have a small window of opportunity to make an impact on the lives of teens. I have seen God change lives in a dramatic fashion, and I have also seen youth repeatadly reject the Gospel. Again, our responsibility is to be faithful and obedient, and to not give up. I love what John Wesley once said.

Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.

– John Wesley

At our January First Sunday at Cornerstone, Jennifer shared from this article three traits of youth who stay in church once they reach adulthood. Read this and really think about the importance of living out the Gospel in the context of family.

  1. They are converted.
  2. They have been equipped, not entertained.
  3. Their parents preached the Gospel to them.

I love how the article wraps up and sums up my thoughts.

Youth pastors, pray with all your might for true conversion; that is God’s work. Equip the saints for the work of the ministry; that is your work. Parents, preach the gospel and live the gospel for your children; our work depends on you.

I once heard the saying that truth taught in the context of relationships changes lives, and I couldn’t agree more. Our teens don’t need more pizza parties and concerts, they need relationships where the Gospel can be demonstrated and taught. They need opportunities to put their faith in action, and they need to realize that church is not something you attend, it’s belonging to the Body of Christ. If we pass that on, we are doing more than entertaining them, we are actually discipling them to live as followers of Christ.


I am a former design engineer who now pastors Cornerstone Community Church in Galax, Virginia. I'm passionate about following Jesus and I love technology. I've been married to Jennifer for 28 years, and we have three adult children.

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