I got asked this question the other day – “What do teenagers want in a church?” It’s a tough question to answer, because it’s like asking “What kind of music do people like?” or “What food do kids eat?” What people look for in choosing a church is often personal taste—location, denomination, people they know who go there, where their parents go, music, youth program, type of building and on and on and on…
That is the wrong question. What teens want in a church doesn’t compare to what they NEED in a church. So what do teens need a church?
1. A place with Jesus – This is the #1 thing that teens need in a church. If they are not meeting Jesus, then it’s a waste of time. Making them more moral, knowing the Bible, or being nice people is pointless without Jesus. Don’t just teach them Jesus—help them know Jesus.
2. A place with adults who care – Teens need adults who can invest and poor their lives into them. They need adults who can mentor and guide them on the right path. They are told by so many adults that they’re not worth the time or effort; they need adults who genuinely care.
3. A place to belong – Teens yearn for belonging. They will often do stupid and damaging things to belong. How about if they were given a place to belong before they even came through the door? Our church or youth group should be a place where any student can be “home.”
4. A place to serve – It has always amazed me the bad rap that teens get for being lazy and selfish. I’ve been on too many mission trips, work camps and service projects to see the zest and joy that teens approach serving. It’s a rare thing to see in adults, but teens love to serve, and they need to be provided opportunities lest they end up being lazy and selfish adults.
5. A place to encourage (and be encouraged) – Teen culture is one of tearing down and destruction. Our church and youth group culture should be one of building up and encouraging.
6. A place to grow – You are teaching your students, but are they growing? If not, you need to look at why not. Students should know that when they come to youth group or church they will leave just a little bit better, a little bit changed.
So be looking for ways to provide what teens need, not necessarily what they want. Giving them what they want might seem like the quickest way to get them in the door of your church, but giving them what they need is the best way to get them in the door of heaven.
What else do teens need from the church?