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  • 1. Johnson 1McKenzie Kate JohnsonMs. BennettBritish Literature7 October 2011 Middle School Teens and Church As teen church attendance is dropping, the number of teen issues and disciplinary problems isvastly increasing. Teens are now centering their lives around other outside sources trying to fill avoid. Middle school students today have countless reasons to attend church, but also havenumerous obstacles that prevent them from doing so. There are many preventatives when itcomes to an adolescent deciding whether or not to go to church. The answer can be as simple asthey are not interested in church, or it is not a priority, or the reason can be complex; various otherreasons fall in between. Teenagers often find it more important to be with friends or even to just sitin front of the television. Even becoming involved from negative activities such as drugs ordrinking is the reason teens as young as middle school age are absent in church. Other times sportsand clubs interfere with church attendance. Also not feeling welcome or not getting along withsomeone in the youth group can prevent students from coming. Cliques and feeling ostracized isthe fastest way to get teens to stop going. If teenagers do not want to go to church, they will find areason not to. Sadly, often teenagers‟ home lives inhibit their religious growth. Teenagers may act as thoughthey want nothing to do with their parents, but “three out of four religious teens consider their ownbeliefs somewhat or very similar to those of their parents” (Lytch). This statistic proves that theenvironment and household children grow up in have an effect on their religious views. Teens whodo not grow up in religious homes and are not talked to about God do not see the importance in
  • 2. Johnson 2church and religion that other teens may. When they grow up in homes that attend churchregularly, their religious views reflect that. There are even times when students learn aboutreligion elsewhere and become interested in church, but their parents prevent them from attendingchurch. In a world accepts many things that the Bible is against, kids are receiving mixed signals.When seventh grader Sarah Christie was asked the difference between the world‟s morals and thechurch‟s morals she said, “The world thinks fashion, popularity, drugs, sex, and money areimportant. The church thinks those things are wrong, and worshiping God, obeying parents, andloving people who do not love you are important.” This is just one example of how different themoral basis is between the world and the Church. Teens are struggling with what is right and whatis wrong in a world where morals have created so much gray area. The media sends out manydifferent and conflicting messages describing what is acceptable and what is not. Teens arewondering which message to listen to plus they are hearing from their parents, friends, and thechurch. Pupils who grow up in church and youth group have an easier time seeing thesedifferences. However, those who do not grow up in church may not see the harm drinking, drugs,sex, and other worldly accepted activities cause. Teenagers decide to go to church for several reasons. In a survey done by Gallup, eighty-twopercent of teens actively involved in a youth group said it was because they wanted to learn moreabout faith, almost three-quarters became involved because of parents, seventy-one percentbecause they wanted to talk about important issues, and sixty-five percent because of an invitationfrom a friend (Lindsay). A majority of the teenagers go because they have a curiosity about faithstrong enough to make them do something about it. They find an interest and are trying to fill ahunger. When the teens see other Christians their age they begin to want the joy and fullness the
  • 3. Johnson 3Christians have. Teenagers are trying to fill a hunger any way they can and the only thing that canactually fill it is God. These statistics also prove that parents play a vital role in their children‟sreligion. If teenagers love to do one thing, it is talk, which is why they like to come to church,where they can talk about their issues and what they think is important. They can gain advice thatis more beneficial to them than advice they get from fellow classmates. Still, one of the mainreasons teens go to church is because they are invited by a friend. It is very intimidating to walkinto a youth room alone, not knowing anybody. When teens arrive with a friend they at least knowthat one other person and that person can show them around and introduce them to other members.Adolescents come to church originally for so many reasons, but stay and learn the love of God. The best way to keep these adolescents involved is to make them feel welcome. Sarah Christie,the seventh grader, says, “When kids do not feel welcome or like anyone will relate to them theystop coming” and may never meet Jesus. Teens who have a negative church experience may be“lost” forever meaning, they never become saved. When teens feel like people care they will keepcoming back. Having these visitors fill out a guest card with their information so that they can befollowed up with is a great way to make them feel like they were noticed. Teenagers want to knowthat they matter and are wanted. Often times people who are actively involved in church say theyfeel as though “the church is my home, everyone is my family, and God is my Father” (Christie).This feeling will keep them coming back. There is a creation of unity and community when this“church family” is formed. For some it is the first time they feel a part of a family and they havesomeone to call on if they need something. Feeling cared for and having a safe place to go issomething people long for that the church can provide. There is great importance in making sure that teenagers are getting involved in church now,while they are young. The Bible says, “Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he
  • 4. Johnson 4will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV). This verse proves that children and teens who areactively involved in a church are more likely to stay involved when they are adults. JacobSokolove, an eighth grader, says that, “They [middle school students] need God the most becausewhen they are an adult it may be too late.” When people become older it is harder to get involvedand change habits; they are less likely to find a reason to start attending church. The thought is, “Ihave gotten this far without church, why do I need it now?” Once people become adults thelikelihood that they will become involved in church when they have not ever been before dropsseventy percent. Adults cannot see what they are missing out on by not having God or church. Middle school is a hard and confusing time in people‟s life. Matthew Bath, who is inseventh grade, says it is important for middle schoolers to come to church, “Because in middleschool they are going through tough times [and church teaches that] when it‟s tough to keep going;remember, „There is a light at the end of the tunnel.‟” During adolescence it is vital to know thatthere is something better to come and all these trials are not as tragic as young people think. At atime when every little incident is the end of the world, adolescents will hold on to the fact that thereis someone watching over them and that things will work out the way that is best. Also, theguidance that the church provides is unparalleled. Church is the place where many people learnright from wrong and it shapes how they will live their lives. Teenagers gain a place to askquestions and find out what is best for them when they are a part of a church. Thirteen may appear to be an age that is just about media and pop culture, especially intoday‟s world, but it can also be a time of deep thought and connection with God when given thechance (Thornburgh). Nathan Thornburgh, along with many other pastors and psychologists,believes that given the chance, young teenagers can flourish in their relationship with God. Theseteenagers are capable of much more than many people give them credit for; they can do more than
  • 5. Johnson 5blast music and watch television. Teens have the capablity to achieve anything they set their mindsto. “Don‟t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for thebelievers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12 NIV). This verse is thelife motto of so many young people. When encouraged and put in the right environment, teens canchange the world for God. Teens have started organizations, raised money, led others to Christ,and so much more because they were believed in and put in the right situation. Young people arecapable of so much more than today‟s media suggests. No teen is exactly the same as another or has the same story. Teenagers, depending on theirbackgrounds, are in different places spiritually. Some teens know nothing about Christ, whileothers have grown up in church their whole lives. Teens who know little about Christ need to beapproached differently and be reached out to. According to author Jonathan McKee, there are sixtypes of students from the “no way kid” to the “looking for ministry kid,” all of whom need to behandled differently. With outreach to students like the “no way kid,” the focus needs to beevangelistic, whereas the “looking for ministry kid” focus should be learning how to live outhis/her faith everyday (McKee). Teenagers who do not go to church need to be reached out to inother ways. Using school events and encouraging students already in youth group to talk to andinvite friends is a great way to start. Students already growing in faith need to be givenopportunities to use it. These opportunities can be giving them a special responsibility, givingthem a chance to share what they know, and so many other tasks that allow teens to use their talentsto glorify God. When teens are not given the chance to grow, boredom sets in and teens may belost. Teens need to always grow in their faith, and never stagnate. Every youth group, no matter how well behaved the kids seem, is going to have an issue ortwo sometimes. It is important to be able to notice these problems so they may be taken care of.
  • 6. Johnson 6One of the biggest problems youth groups face is cliques, which “are the enemy of a healthycommunity and ultimately of students hearing God‟s best for them” (Bell). The teenagers who arenot a part of the clique feel alienated and usually stop coming. Bullying can equally cause astudent‟s attendance to drop. When a group of students were asked what problems were seen in ayouth group, a majority of them, along with Jacob Sokolove, said the disruptive students. So teensare equally discouraged when they see their leader being disrespected and other students beingdistracting. When leaders see these problems, they need to decide a plan of action immediately toaddress these problems. Sometimes the issue may be handled by simply talking to the few who arecausing the problem, but when the problem is the majority, the group needs to be addressed. Incertain situations the leader will even base their lesson for the day on the issue to have it fullyexplained and hopefully prevent continuation. These issues need to be handled before students arelost. For teens to become attached to church they need to feel like they are a part of somethingbigger than themselves and that the teachings are relevant to them. Pastor Chris Palmer says thathis youth group attendance doubled when he told the teens “real church, centered around Christ, ishard work. It involves the Marine Corps of Christianity” (Grossman). Teens want to be part ofsomething bigger than themselves. As much as adolescents deny it, they want something that ischallenging and takes some work. If it is just the same monotonous routine, they become bored andfeel like they are not accomplishing anything. Something exciting and radical catches theirattention. If their attention is gained, everything will run smoothly. Also, giving a relevantapplication of the lesson makes them feel like the information is something that they need to know.Talking about how people lived during biblical times is going to make it seem that what is beingtaught does not apply to today‟s teens. Giving examples of how the teachings work in today‟s
  • 7. Johnson 7world as well lets them see the importance and see that the Bible is timeless. Making the Bible andchurch relevant to the students also means challenging them. Giving a weekly goal or challengerelated to the lesson will keep the youth thinking about the lesson and give them a way to apply itto their lives. After all, what use is knowledge if it is not applied? These challenages will help theteens remember the information for longer as well. Teens want to feel useful and like they aremaking a difference; if they feel that way, they will keep going to church. Teenagers want something to fill the void in their lives, yet so many factors can preventthem from doing so. Teens are not the future; they are the now, and it is necessary to reach thembefore it is too late. Teens wish to achieve great things, but they need the right guidance and God astheir focus to succeed.

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