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If you build it ... for youth will they come?

 

Recently, a Newsweek poll indicated that 78 percent of teenagers said religion is important, and many gladly identified themselves as “spiritual,” though few wanted to be labeled “religious.” George Barna, the Christian pollster, has observed that two out of three teens strongly desire a personal relationship with God.

The downside, according the Barna, is that fewer than half are excited about church, and only a small percentage of today’s youth actually attend any church on a given Sunday.

This perplexing dilemma has left many parents and church leaders wondering how to reach this emerging generation.

 

Appealing to teens

Jerry Fountain, a church architect, reports, “For far too long churches have given the youth programs the ‘leftovers.’ George Barna indicates that the typical church appropriates less than 3% for the youth in the budget while the youth make up approximately 11% of the membership. Churches have been saying to the youth, ‘You really don’t matter.’ Is it any wonder that the youth are leaving the church in droves?”

The world does not hesitate to allure, indoctrinate and influence today’s youth. Much of the entertainment industry’s dollars are spent to pander to the interests of the millennial kids. The fashion industry targets teenagers and markets their products to attract our youth. The communication industry also designs many of their products to appeal to teenagers.

 

Investing resources

Churches are finally beginning to realize that this emerging generation must be given a higher priority if their hearts and minds and ultimately their souls are to be won.

Scott Kindig, a consultant in the Youth Ministries Division of the Georgia Baptist Convention, declares, “Many Georgia Baptist churches are making a loud statement to the next generation that they believe enough in students to seriously invest energy, focus and resources in them.”

Kindig cites some of the churches – such as FBC Jonesboro, FBC Newnan, Burnt Hickory in Kennesaw, Eastside in Marietta and Peachtree Corners in Norcross – that have created ministry centers designed to be launching pads for students to impact their community and peers for the Kingdom.

Kindig adds, “This trend is also seen in churches of every size all over Georgia that are converting rooms or areas into youth-friendly environments where students are proud to invite their friends.”

Fountain acknowledged, “Youth are extremely social beings. They like to congregate in small and large groups. This is how they feel accepted. Eastside Baptist in Marietta has built such a facility. It is open, bright, entertaining and a place where students can go for clean social activities, get help with homework, and find acceptance seven days a week.”

However, Kindig reminded, “Buildings do not reach people, but people reach people. New and cool youth buildings might attract some curious students or families for the first time, but the building alone will not be able to hold on to them. The bigger challenge in youth ministry today is to raise up youth workers and congregations who know how to love students unconditionally. When that happens, those students who attend once will want to repeat the experience.”

 

Steps to success

Kindig suggests four steps to a successful youth ministry:

1. Create a warm environment in whatever space you designated for a ministry to students.

2. Create a leadership team that loves the Lord and really knows how to love students.

3. Create a climate where students can be proud to bring their lost friends.

4. In the process, prioritize a ministry style that focuses on sending students out with a witnessing lifestyle as a means of multiplying your influence around the world through the next generation.

For help in training your students, register for Fall Classic at First Baptist Church in Jonesboro. Fall Classic offers more than 40 seminars that will train your Youth Ministry Leadership Team to really love students. For registration information go to www.superwow.com or call 800-746-4422 ext. 234.

William Nelson

A view of the exterior of Eastside Baptist Church's new youth facility. The building was designed specifically to engage youth. Eastside is one of several Georgia Baptist churches that have created ministry centers designed for students.

Kirby Pruett

Members and guests of Eastside Baptist Church in Marietta gather at the open house of the church's new youth facility. Scott Kindig, a consultant in the Youth Ministries Division of The Georgia Baptist Convention, says he has taken note of churches of all sizes throughout the state "that are converting rooms or areas into youth-friendly environments where students are proud to bring their friends."

Kirby Pruett

Two worship auditoriums, one for senior high and another for junior high, are capable of seating up to 500 students at Eastside's new youth facility.