Another Way to Do Youth Ministry Campus Ministry Ministry: Some Thought Questions

Tim Schmoyer, at “Life in Student Ministry,” has posted “6 Ways to Integrate Teens into Your Church.” Here are the six —

1. Serve in the church service.

2. Invite teenagers to youth leader meetings.

3. Encourage your Sr. Pastor to speak to them.

4. Invite the teens to give input into the sermon.

5. Include teens into small groups with the adults.

6. Invite teenagers into church board meetings.

What, if anything, is missing? What underlying assumptions feed his advice? What kinds of subjects must the church board meetings deal with if teens are appropriately there? What’s missing?

We’ve actually tried some of these in the past. In fact, we’re currently experimenting with having teens in the adult small groups. (It’s a work in process.) The only one we’ve never tried is asking the teens for sermon input.

So I’m not objecting to the ideas. We need to intentionally think about how we can better integrate teens, college students, and younger members into the life of our congregations. But can we do even better?

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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4 Responses to Another Way to Do Youth Ministry Campus Ministry Ministry: Some Thought Questions

  1. John says:

    Number 5, including teens into small groups with adults, is a very good one. The reality is, teens want to be treated like adults. I believe doing so will get the best out of them.

    They’ll regret wanting to be older later.

  2. Charles McLean says:

    I see nothing wrong with these suggestions per se. But as Jay asks, what is underlying here? We see a set of solutions offered for a symptom, without acknowledging the real problem. The problem is not that “teens need to be integrated into your church”. It is that we have fellow believers whom we have excluded from the mainstream life of the church. When they were ages 0-12, we didnj’t mind. Conventional church life does not have any place for them. That’s why we created children’s programs. We created instructive and fun ways for the kids to essentially “go play”, while the adults “have church”. But when they outgrow “go play”, these teens find themselves aware that they are not part of the life of the congregation and never really have been. They are ancillary to an adult activity. Don’t believe it? Tell me: how would the life and mission of the congregation change (other than the kids programs) if you had the same adults, but they had no kids?

    We have demographically sliced and separated the local congregation for a long time now. The bigger the congregation, the more slices we create. This is an academic model: modern education has taught us to lump people together by age for educational efficiency. We have expanded this principle to apply to social comfort levels as well, separating young marrieds, “college and career”, “senior saints”, teens (junior high segregated from high school), men’s and ladies’ groups. Unfortunately, this process of makinig instruction more efficient and group interaction more comfortable has moved the focus of congregational life from Jesus to us.

    Adolescence makes a great indicator for the underlying problem here. This is a time when a child is trying to find his place in the adult world. But in the traditional congregation, he faces the fact that he has no place there. No one needs his assistance in GrownUp World, or wants him involved in anything important. He has few, if any, significant relationships beyond his age group. Involvement reminds the teen that he is not part of the mainstream church, as it is the “youth group” which goes out on a weekend mission or for two weeks helping the poor in Guatemala. (Actually, the only connection the teen has to adult believers in these activities is to sell them stuff so he can raise air fare.)

    We have disconnected ourselves from the subsequent generation and complain bitterly when the physical begins to reflect the spiritual and emotional reality that has been there all along. Then, we try to fix the symptom without any inkling that we might be creating the disease ourselves.

    As a parent who home-schooled a large family for some 15 years, I was reminded that God does not give us litters of children, but a span of ages. We seem to function quite nicely as an integrated unit of people from age 40 to age 4. But a family is, in the terms of how we do church, an incovenient conglomeration which needs to be split up at the church door.

    Here is an underlying issue we might look at: Why is a local church divided up into subgroups by what people can do and by what they want to do?

    And lest those of us in house churches get too pleased with ourselves here, I have found that this dynamic generally reprises itself in a smaller venue. Here’s a common question: “What do we do with the kids?” Not a bad question, but one which is unfortunately really asking, “How can we get them out of here so we can talk?” Many large congregations with small groups find them segregated by age as efficiently as if they were assigned that way.

    A family is integrated; the local church is segregated. Does anyone see a problem here?

  3. American culture invented the teenager. Somewhere along the line, the church adopted the American cultural teenager. Find mention of teenagers in the Bible. Please find it and let me know where it is.

    The one thing I see in most churches is that the teenagers sit in their own section on Sunday morning. STOP THAT PRACTICE. Keep teens with the rest of the congregation.

    My humble opinion on traditions.

  4. Jay Guin says:


    I have no real complaints with the particulars of the suggestions made in the article I reference. My complaint is the notion that these suggestions are so limited. After all, the goal is to integrate teens into the life of the “church.”

    The suggestions are limited to the assembly and organizational structure of the church — implicitly defining “church” in terms of ecclessiology — the authority structure and the assembly.

    Why would we not think more in terms of including the teens in the works of service and evangelism done by the adults? Why not include them in the adult mission trips? The adult house painting projects? The adult soup kitchen?

    Wouldn’t that be much, much better? And yet notice how easily we all think of “church” in terms of the assembly and committee meetings.

    No wonder the modern church is struggling so — we’ve defined “church” in our minds as maintenance of the institution. And that is exactly the kind of thinking that will run our children out of the church.

    Therefore, I think the suggestions are sheer futility — unless the adults change their understanding of church and include the kids in their new understanding.

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