Think back to when you were a young person.  What did you value most?  Mostly likely, your friends ranked right at the top of the list.  For many young people, their peers are one of the most important parts of their lives. 

But what about friends who are not already part of the church?  How do our young people reconcile their involvement with the church and those “unchurched” friends?  Are they forced to pick between the two?

A recent study (ICM, 2014) conducted by the Institute for Church Ministry showed that many youth are excited enough about their church’s programming that they would gladly invite their peers.  Seventy percent of youth surveyed said that they would love to invite their friends to attend their youth group, and 74% said that they would love to introduce their friends to their church family.

However, the news isn’t all good.  Eleven percent of youth indicated that they would not like to introduce their friends to their youth group, and five percent said the same about introducing their friends to their church.

This means that there is work to be done!  But what does a youth-friendly church look like?  The Grace Communion International website has some great ideas on how to do just that:

  • Create a sense of belonging.  Young people need a meaningful place to belong, to feel valued. 
  • Develop and affirm young people’s skills.  Give them tasks at church and make them feel important.  As you shape in their skills and train them up, they can begin to take a role in real ministry.
  • Grow young people’s self worth.  This is similar to affirming their skills, but goes further.  Instead of just appreciating what they can do for the church, this requires investing personally in them and accepting them for who they are.
  • Providing reliable and predictable relationships.  This includes solid, ongoing peer relationships, but also includes adult mentoring relationships as well.[1]

Our youth population will seek to meet these needs however they can.  Doing so isn’t “wrong” or “selfish,” but is simply part of the process of growing up.  If we within the church are not meeting these needs, then our young people are going to look elsewhere to meet them.  Also, if we are not creating an environment that draws in new young people, we are not growing our programs for youth to their full potential.

The Grace Communion International website also has some great ideas for reaching out to youth.  Ideas include:

  • Give them opportunities to learn and then to perform tasks that are valued within the congregation.
  • Pray with and for them.
  • Look for opportunities to affirm them.
  • Learn about their world.
  • Listen – really listen – to them.

(For the full article, check out: https://www.gci.org/church/youth/youth8.)

Maybe your church is doing great in reaching out to youth.  Maybe your young people are excited to bring their friends to church.  Or, maybe its time for your church to do some introspection.  A great way to start is to do a check-in with your youth – find out how they feel, what they would like to see change, etc. and then move forward with their thoughts in mind.

The youth of today is the church of tomorrow.  It’s time to reach out and create a church that we all can – joyfully – be a part of!


[1] How to Make Your Congregation Youth-Friendly. (2003). Retrieved February 11, 2015, from https://www.gci.org/church/youth/youth8