A common myth about U.S. teenagers is that they do not care about religion. Although there is a growing church attendance “dropout” rate for those in their twenties, studies demonstrate that youth ages 13–18 who have been raised in the church are more concerned about religion than those in their late twenties, thirties, and even forties.
In 2002, George Gallup, Jr., reported that American teens are also more intense (and typically more conservative) about their beliefs than they will be by the time they reach age thirty. Those who drop away from the church are more likely to do so in college than in high school. The primary factors for defecting seem to be the influence of friends, enjoying newfound freedoms, involvement with a new love interest, or the influence of non-Christian instructors at secular schools.
How can Christian teens stay involved in their congregations? It is important for parents, pastors, and church leaders to encourage their youth to be involved in service to their Lord so they can experience being a part of the church’s eternal mission. We all want to be part of a cause bigger than ourselves. How much “bigger” can you get than “holding up the prophet’s hands” as they point people to the gates of heaven?! If we treat teens only as the church of the future, some may not be there in the future.
Here are some ways teens can participate in the work of their local churches:
- Teach Vacation Bible School or Sunday School (some recent confirmands make the best teachers).
- Use musical talents to enhance worship.
- Assist the pastor on shut-in calls (I know a fifth-grade boy who would dress in a suit to accompany his pastor).
- Help elderly members.
- Serve on committees as a junior member, non-voting—such as Evangelism, Trustees, or Membership committees (some teens can be amazing at talking about their faith).
- Visit nursing homes to sing or play hymns on the piano.
- Have youth groups sing Christmas carols at homes of shut-ins.
- Assist with counting the offering at church.
- Use your skills with photography, video, or audio equipment.
- Serve as webmaster for your church website.
- Establish and update a Facebook page for your church.
- Help out on special clean-up days.
- Provide babysitting for church functions.
- Serve a special meal at church, such as during Advent, Lent, or Easter.
If you are a teen who would like to find some way to be involved, ask your pastor for suggestions on appropriate ways to use your talents and gifts in the church. God promises to bless the faithful service of His chosen people, whether young or old.
Donald Moldstad is chaplain at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, Minnesota.