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4 Tips to Keep Teens Engaged in Church

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As your younger parishioners begin to approach puberty, you may notice that their interest in Sunday school, mass and even church activities begins to waver. This is a normal rite of passage, as they begin on those final steps towards adulthood, and discovering who they want to be when they get there.

Rather than pulling back on church youth groups and activities geared for that age, you should be thinking about restructuring them, to increase the appeal. These are your future primary congregates, and during the troubling teen years, you have a perfect opportunity to show how their religious background will always help lead them in the right direction.

1. Be Flexible in the Structure

Teens are facing new challenges, and need a safe place to work those out. When planning your youth group for them, keep the scheduling flexible, leaving plenty of time for “free” talk either with the youth pastor or amongst themselves. Not every meeting has to be about Bible study, instead make the main subject themes that are plaguing them now, like peer pressure, sex and drugs, with references to religion and spirituality in the background.

2. Recruit an Enthusiastic Youth Pastor

A youth pastor does not need to be young, but they should have plenty of energy and fresh ideas for how to interact with your younger church members. They should also be aware of trends in society and how to work those into the meetings. The more relatable the youth pastor is to the kids that join, the more likely they will be to keep going back.

3. Young Adult, not Youth, Ministry

Kids today are sophisticated, and know more at their age then we give them credit for. Don’t talk down to teenagers, rather treat them like the young adults that they are. When they have questions, answer them and when they are offering their own insight, make sure that you are listening. At this age, kids have more respect for adults who talk frank, and treat them with respect. By putting this into practice, you are developing a youth group the young members will feel comfortable being a part of.

4. Work With What they Know

Don’t forget that these are kids who are growing up in the middle of what we call the age of technology. Integrate modern technology into the youth ministry, and you’ll be amazed at the increase in interest. Let them design pages for the church web page, or give them research assignments that they can do through online searches. You can also take advantage of modern technology to communicate better with the youth group when meetings are not scheduled. Create a Facebook page where they can chat and share ideas from home. Use text message services to send them messages about meetings and other activities. That can be done with ease using a mass notification system such as DialMyCalls that is able to send a message to multiple people at the same time. Teenagers are more inclined to read a text message than any other form of communication. Using this type of service to reach out to them will definitely grab their attention.

Don’t let diminishing numbers in attendance discourage you from offering a youth group to your younger church members. Adapt your program to meet the needs and interests of teenagers today, and they will be happy to keep up with their religious and spiritual education.

19 COMMENTS

  1. You made a great point about getting a youth pastor that can bring energy and good new ideas to the congregation. My husband and I are looking for a new Christian church that we can go to as a family from now on. We will keep these tips in mind as we search for a professional that can help us best.

  2. I appreciate what yous said about treating teenagers as mature, independent individuals when trying to find churches that can keep your children involved. I remember I once visited a church and the youth pastor connected with the teenagers because he was first and foremost a friend that they could trust and connect with. Thanks for the tips, I’ll be sure to pass them along to people I know looking for churches that are good for their youth.

  3. We consider that we have a FAMILY oriented church, but we cannot seem to attract or keep teens through 29’s participating.
    During the 50’s and 60’s we had about 25 teen’s through college age participating because of, primarily, a married couple that led our P F program. They met at their home, which was open to members evenings any time but mainly when agreed to after Sunday Church. Today we would call that a “small group”. Teens were treated like adults (in transition from childhood), they had a male roll model for boys and female roll model for girls, and it all came together as a happy family roll modeling experience.

  4. Treating a teen like they are a young adult is super important. Talking down to them won’t help with anything! Even if they do act like children, which they are, it is still a good idea to treat them as if they are older. That can hopefully help them to start acting like adults!

  5. I like your tip to treat teenagers as young adults and not children. I especially like how you mention the importance of listening to them when they are sharing insight. You might learn something from them and will gain insight into their lives and how the church can better help them. Thanks for sharing these tips!

  6. My husband is a regular church goer and wants to find a church for our daughter. I agree that it’s best to work with your kids and what they know so that they get involved. I’ll have to see if I can get my daughter interested so that she can do her own research to find a church to go to.

  7. I think the key to getting youth involved in church is to have a good youth pastor. Don’t tell me that when you are deciding which church you go to in your community that you don’t make sure you like your pastor. It is the same for kids, probably more so. I think teens want to be engaged and feel involved, so you should find a church leader who can do this.

    • Agreed!!

      We are in the process of moving churches and what’s difficult is that sometimes the lead pastor is strong but the youth pastor isn’t, or vice versa. Finding a perfect fit for the whole family can be a tall order! Thanks for reading and commenting.

  8. My wife has been to a ton of different churches in her life. She’s always wanted our kids to go to a church where they feel involved. Something that you mentioned could help with that is to get a youth pastor that is enthusiastic,full of energy, and has fresh ideas to interact with the kids. I feel like that would help our kids a lot during these bad times.

  9. One thing to keep in mind when trying to reach teens with technology is to remember that not all teens have the latest social media accounts (nor should they). Don’t make SnapChat, Instagram, or Facebook your sole means of communication with your students or you may leave those students in the dark.

    Also, make sure your church website has all the relevant information available for parents! Many of us want to know what is going on too and that is the fastest/easiest place for us to find the information.

    • Thanks for your comment! I can imagine it would be frustrating to have ONLY social media as a communication tool. Yes, youth leaders do need to use email, in person, text, and phone – whatever works best for their church community – and not reply only on the preferred social network of the youth.

      Here’s a link to another article I wrote about middle school ministry and communication that might be helpful: https://churchtechtoday.com/2014/09/10/youthmin-comm/

  10. Tim, I am also a big believer in meeting teens where they live – their technology. I cofounded an online prayer journal for exactly that reason. I’m hoping to get the word out through youth pastors who are engaged with these teens in a way that teaches them to build solid spiritual growth foundations that will support them their entire lives!

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