One of the things that I enjoy most in life is sitting down with a group of high schoolers on Sunday nights and teaching them God’s Word in a way that is faithful to the meaning while helping them apply it to their lives. We are currently studying the book of Philippians, and I love the challenge of studying the meaning of the text, seeing the universal principles in it that God is teaching, and then helping teenagers apply it. We have a small group time after our time of Bible study, and I get energized hearing them wrestle with how what they have heard applies on the baseball field, in their high school hallway the next morning, or in their relationship with their parents when they get home.
Brian Cosby has written a helpful book, Giving Up Gimmicks: Reclaiming Youth Ministry fron an Entertainment Culture that reminds us of the importance of having Bible-saturated, Gospel-centered Youth Ministry that takes the Bible seriously. Cosby writes:
Doctrine should never be separated from worship and the “so what?” question. Doctrine should inform students why they should do well in school, and how they can fight the temptation to gossip about another teen…indeed, the truths of God’s Word should be the lens through which they view all of life–from homework to movies, from dating to parents. — pp. 99-100
I can’t imagine having an opportunity for teens to regularly gather together and not encouraging them to believe the gospel and live the gospel through taking time to teach God’s Word. Youth Ministries are never more fulfilling their mission than when they support Christian parents by supplementing what their teens are already being taught at home, while also reaching out to those who come from unbelieving homes by consistently, passionately teaching what it means to know and follow Jesus from the Bible. Anything less is subliminally teaching them that it’s OK to build their lives on sinking sand (Matt. 7:24-27)!
Often when the importance of the Word of God in Youth Ministry is brought up, there is a concern about the place of games. I heartily believe that both have a place in Youth Ministry. In our context, our Middle Schoolers and High Schoolers enjoy free time over ping pong, pool, and foosball before we begin each Sunday night, and an organized game after worship in singing, Bible Study, and small groups (including prayer). In fact, I have told our Children’s Ministry workers, “You must have fun if you work with children,” and the same goes for Youth Ministry. Teenagers love to have fun together, which is part of fellowship for them. But there does not need to be a dichotomy between having fun together and taking the Bible seriously!
Peter confessed to Christ, “You have the words of eternal life…” (John 6:68) In order to have a Family Ministry that has an eternal impact, we need to study those words of eternal life together regularly. Twelve year olds and eighteen year olds need this Word just as much as everyone else.