How to Win and Influence Youth for Christ

My mission – and the mission I challenge my church to – is to make disciples who become disciple-makers. Jesus is calling people of all ages to follow him. Here are some ideas from Christian Smith’s recent book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, that will help do a better job reaching youth. Smith’s studies confirm that our hiring someone to focus on youth ministry is positively correlated with reaching youth. But they also confirm the common-sense judgment that the ministry is too big for one person alone.

  1. Recognize that many of the common assumption about teenagers (such as: they’re rebellious, troublesome, not interested in God) are mistaken.
  2. The best way to get more youth involved and serious about their faith is to get their parents more involved. Contrary to common expectations, parents have the greatest influence over teenagers.
  3. Don’t be shy about teaching teenagers. Give them solid content to learn.
  4. Find ways to help youth articulate their faith. They will need regular example of adults around them who will articulate the content of the faith and its connection with ordinary life. Put them in situation where they not only hear the faith put into words, but in where they can practice doing so themselves.
  5. Encourage more relationships between youth and adults in the congregation. They will profit from more connections with more adults. They need to see the faith active in your life and that you are open to them.
  6. Practicing the faith is like practicing a sport or a musical instrument: it is an activity that with diligent work and discipline, will be highly beneficial and rewarding.
  7. Although there are secular reasons to be a committed Christian (better health, more friendships, etc.), do not reduce following Jesus to such an instrumentalist view.
  8. Stop thinking of teenagers as beings from another planet. Get to know them.
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