Youth service is the crux of your youth ministry. You spend hours each week preparing your sermon, creating illustrations, gathering materials and praying for lives to be changed. After much preparation, you arive at youth service only to find far fewer students in attendance than you would have liked. You wonder why you put so much effort into the lives of kids who don’t seem to take you seriously. Why won’t they show up for service instead of just the big events and fun trips you take?

Motivation

Like it or not, teenagers aren’t easily motivated by obligation like adults are. They have enough obligation through school, chores and extracurricular activities. The last thing they want is something else they are “supposed” to do. And quite frankly, that’s a good thing. You see, church should never be an obligation or a burden. We develop that bad habit through many years of church attendance, religious habits and the influence of others that believe church is the key to Christianity.

Consider this – when Jesus began His ministry, he took issue with the Pharisees who chided Him for healing on the Sabbath and failing to participate in the lawful traditions of temple worship. He was the antithesis of their organized and structured religion and He proclaimed that our bodies are now the temple of God.

But did He throw out assembling together? Absolutely not. We are told to assemble together…but why?For edification. Our innate desire as Christians is to form meaningful relationships with other believers that helps build us and encourage us in faith during good times and bad. Teenagers (and adults too, though they are more disciplined to ignore it) CRAVE edifying relationships. They do not want to attend church simply to sing songs and listen to why they shouldn’t drink or have sex before they are married.

They want to be introduced to the living God. They want a relationship with their creator. They want to be liberated from religious bondage and a list of rules they’ve heard all of their lives. You give them that – a true relationship with Jesus Christ, whome they fall deeply and passionately in love with – and you’ll find their ambivalence and apathy turn into zeal and leadership within your youth ministry. You won’t have to beg them to show up to youth service each week or attend outreaches. You won’t be able to keep them away!

So How Do You Give Teenagers a REAL Relationship with Christ?

Well, how did Jesus introduce Himself? Not once did He approach a non-believer and proclaim, “I am the Son of God, and I alone am the way to Heaven.” Do you recall Him preaching messages of hell, fire and brimstone? No, He spoke gently to people right where they were at without revealing much more than that He was a Jew with a message of faith and forgiveness. Ever wonder why? It’s because God desires a relationship with those He created to walk with Him. He doesn’t want relationship motivated from fear, but rather love. Remember, “He who fears has not been made perfect in love.”

Don’t preach to teenagers messages of condemnation or threats. That does little motivate, and though you may get a few kids that respond, the result is not a relationship, but a requirement. If you have children, do you want them to spend time with you because they fear your punishment if they don’t? Or would you rather them crawl up in your lap because they love you, trust you and want to draw near to you? How much more so our Heavenly Father!

Try introducing your teenagers to the fullness of the love of Jesus. Do it through your own lifestyle, through your personal one-on-one relationship with them, through encouraging words and through the evidence of the fruits of the Spirit in your life. Lead them gently and with kind words rather than harsh rebukes. So many believers and pastors believe it is their responsibility to draw others to Christ. That’s not what the Bible says. Instead, it tells us to preach the gospel to all men – but that the Holy Spirit will draw them.

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Filed under: Starting a Youth Ministry

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