In the bedroom of an average house, you see a 16 year old girl looking for an answer. She’s already flipped through the television channels, magazine pages, and self-help books. Every so often she glances at her dusty bottom bookshelf. The tears stream down her face until finally she ventures to that shelf of unused sources. The book she picks up is under her category of “Christian Books I Got for Confirmation, But Never Read.” You can’t help but notice that she is spiritually confused and vulnerable. As a youth leader, you want to step inside that room and show her the Answer.

Fortunately, one of your youth, by the Spirit’s working, will.

That alienated adolescent was me, at a place in my life where nothing made sense. How perfect was that place for God’s perfect work in my vulnerable heart. One Sunday night, when the only thing I could think of doing was numbing my mind to the pain of my world, the phone rang. On the other line was an older friend of mine with one question for me,

“Do you want to go with me to youth group?  We’re having a Movie Madness night.”

Now, if you knew me, you would know that it didn’t take long for me to jump at the chance to watch some movie clips and talk about what I like about them. I quickly went downstairs to find the movie clip that I most enjoyed, hopped into Andrea’s car, and headed for church.
As I entered the youth room, I saw so many kids from school that I had no idea were “Bible beaters.” I thought to myself that they must have only been there for the movies as well. Everyone showed their favorite movie clip and we all talked, but then it was the leader’s turn. It just happened that this youth leader brought a clip from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Did he know that was one of my favorite movies growing up? No, but he was going to show me a different interpretation that would shape my future faith life.

After that night, I continued to come to youth group looking for answers. Through the church and the youth group, I was shown Jesus is the Answer. It was not long after, that youth group gave me a sense of belonging. It did not seem right for me to spend my Sunday nights at home by myself. God was working through my youth group and my faith was being fostered.

All youth groups need to be Christ-focused. This principle seems like such a no-brainer. Anything you do with your youth group needs to be centered on the message of the Cross. If you want to do a fundraiser with your youth for an upcoming event, find the connection between your car wash and the Gospel. If you can do this for the events you hold, your youth will learn to not compartmentalize their life as well.

Even with a clear focus on Jesus Christ, youth workers need to meet the youth where they are. If, on that particular Sunday night, I would have stepped into that youth room and watched my youth leader hop onto his soapbox and preach to me about how he was living the right way, I certainly would not be writing this article. Youth spend the majority of their time listening to “grown-ups” tell them what to do. In many situations their opinions are pushed to the wayside and adults naturally dictate their routine. Most of your youth want to be in a place where they feel that they count, where what they have to say is willing to be heard. Ask your youth what they need. I guarantee they have something to say. There is no set of rules that will give you the best youth group. There isn’t a program recipe that will produce Christ-centered youth, only Jesus can work such changes. But there is a bunch of youth in your congregation that know there is something missing from their life.

Youth will come to youth group with wants and needs, and youth workers have the answer to help them find focus. Most high school students need direction. Their life feels out of control physically, mentally, and spiritually. That’s where I was. I couldn’t control what was going on in my life and I needed someone or something to stop my world from spinning and give me something on which to focus. The youth in your congregation will find someone to provide it. There are plenty of things in the world in which high school students can place their faith: drugs, alcohol, sex, and other things of this world. Pray for the Spirit to use you as a tool to reach them and direct them to Jesus Christ.

I must share with you that my life didn’t suddenly transform into June Cleaver’s. No, I continued to suffer the pain of the consequences of sin. What transformed me was the One in whom I put my trust. Life flows a lot more fluidly with God in control. Youth group didn’t make my life easy, but God working through my youth group made it seem so. Your youth room must be a haven for peace. For me, being in that youth room was as close to heaven as I was going to get. I was submerged in God’s Word, surrounded by prayer, and flooded with the peace brought only by the Holy Spirit.
Equip your youth to evangelize. By the Spirit, they can do it. In the same way that Andrea brought me to youth group, I brought my friend Becky just a few years later. My youth leader not only equipped me for this helping, but encouraged me. God can and will use your youth group as a vessel for planting the seed of faith. Trust in Him to give your youth direction. Pray continually. Remember that it’s all about relationships, first and foremost our relationship with God, then your relationship with your youth, and the fellowship found between the youth of your church. Be ready for that 16 year old to walk through your doors; the Answer will find her.
Veritas: Real teens addressing real problems through the Christian lens of truth.