A well-known Christian blogger and speaker began a search looking for teenagers who wanted to be one of his interns. He asked teens from all over the world to fill out a written questionnaire, and then submit a 3 minute video sharing how they came to know the Lord. In one of his blogs he shared the findings. He watched 100 of the video testimonies and here is what he found.
Nearly every single one of the teenagers could adequately and clearly present their salvation testimony, not just speak Christian things. They were able to explain who they were before salvation, what Christ did to them, and who they are now (the essential elements to a testimony). This is encouraging to me as a pastor. This means that all the sermons, Bible studies, and devotionals are getting through and we should keep going! Again, we are not saying this is true for all teens, but when God gets a hold of someone, He does an amazing work! We need to keep teaching and preaching the wonderful things of God and let Him handle the results.
Another interesting find was that half of the respondents were home-school educated, and of the other half, was split between public school children and Christian school children. There was no discernible difference between one group and another in how they spoke of Jesus Christ. This was also true of what church they came from. It could be a big, well-known church, or the church down the street, but the blogger couldn’t spot any real difference in how they explained the things of Christ. This is encouraging as well because this means God does not only do His work in big churches!
A find that brought him some concern was that over 90% of the teenagers were Caucasian. Now, this could be because that is the demographic that follows this particular blogger. But it could also be that churches are being a little too narrow in their growth and evangelism. Are we (consciously/unconsciously) speaking the gospel to, or inviting only Caucasian people to our churches? It is something to think about.
Another concern that was brought up was how many of these teenagers said they made a profession of faith at a very young age (5 or 6 years old) but then realized they weren’t really converted until their teen years because their faith became independent of their parent’s wishes. We need to remember if a child gives a profession of faith at 5 or 6, he/she may just be doing that to please the parents and not because they have truly been regenerated. Keep giving your children the gospel and challenge them in their faith but don’t tell them they are Christians because they said so back when they were younger.
The last concern was the most serious. Very few of these teens could speak of an older believer or mentor who was instrumental in their life. Almost all said it was a parent or a pastor. This trend concerns me as well and I think we need to change it. The model for discipleship in the church is for older believers to mentor/shepherd younger believers, and it seems that this isn’t happening as much as it should be.
I think all are to blame in this final concern. Pastors think they are the only ones who can shepherd and influence. Older believers don’t actively seek out teens to shepherd and mentor. And, teenagers tend to stick to their own youth group and aren’t being an active part of the church as a whole. All of us need to look carefully at our life and see how we can better disciple young people. As a pastor, I need to ask myself “Am I trusting the believers in the church to disciple?” As an older believer, are you seeking out a teenager to mentor and shepherd? And as a teenager, are you a ‘youth group only’ part of the church?
The future of the church is bright and God is doing a mighty work amongst teenagers but let us continue, striving to improve and grow, instead of just accepting the status quo.
Pastor Mark Scialabba