Many, if not most churches have some sort of youth group. “Youth group” can mean different things to different people. Parents should evaluate whether youth groups are something their teens should participate in and not assume that it’s worthwhile just because it is a church activity.
What is the purpose of the group?
“Youth group” can mean different things to different people, and not every youth group serves the same purpose. If you are considering a youth group for your teenagers, it’s important to know the purpose of the youth group.
Here are some possibilities:
Discipleship: Titus 2 speaks of discipleship. Older men are to teach the younger men, while the older women are to teach the younger women.
Titus 2:2, 6-8. Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance.
Likewise urge the young men to be sensible;
in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified,
sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.
Titus 2:3-5. Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good,
so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,
to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.
What a wonderful opportunity for your children to receive instruction from older, mature, wise Christians within your church. I would be very cautious of any youth group leader that does not meet this criteria. What does an individual half your age with toddlers in tow have to offer your children that you don’t?
Worship: Some youth groups come together to worship. If so, this may raise other questions. Is this like your regular Sunday worship service, or does the youth group worship look totally different? If so, why? Why does your church find it necessary for the youth to have their own worship service?
Ministry: Perhaps the purpose of your youth group is to minster to people within your church or to the community. If so, you’ll need details about the ministry. What is the goal, who are they targeting, what activities will your children be participating in, etc.?
Evangelism: Perhaps the youth group is evangelizing to the community. Some youth groups reach outside the church and intend to serve as a way to lead youth in the community to Christ. If this is the purpose of your youth group, you will have to decide whether or not your child meets the qualifications for the group. Obviously, if your child is a Christian, he/she would not qualify. If your child is not a Christian but is being raised in a Christian home, you may decide that this group is not a good fit for your child.
Fellowship: Some youth groups have no purpose whatsoever except to serve as a social club for teenagers. When the youth get together, there still should be activities planned. What kind of adult supervision will there be? What activities will be planned or will a bunch of teens with hormones raging be brought together to lust over one another? As parents, we must be careful not to put our children in situations that will cause them to sin.
How well do you know the leaders? Are the leaders people that you’ve known for a long period of time and know well enough to entrust your children to their care, or are they church staff-members that you do not know well at all? Don’t assume that just because this is a church activity that your children will be safe physically and spiritually.
What will be taught? If there will be a teaching time, what will be taught? Do the leaders’ beliefs coincide with yours? What are the leaders’ views on dating? Will your child be told that there’s something wrong with him if he doesn’t have a girlfriend? Will dating be discussed? If you’re a homeschooler, will your children be subjected to discussions that they need not be involved in such as how to handle bullies at school? Do the youth leaders have a positive view of homeschooling? Hopefully as a parent you have already covered Biblically such subjects as courtship, marriage, and sex. If so, is this something you want your kids discussing with a group of teens?
Is this a good use of time? Time is precious to all of us. Church activities should be an extension of what you are already doing at home. If Christian parents are fulfilling their responsibilities of teaching their children at home, there may not be much use for their children to attend a youth group. If your youth group is nothing more than a social club or meant for non-Christians, you may decide that it is not something you want to spend time on. However, if it’s an opportunity for your child to be involved in some sort of ministry/community service or to get some discipling from a grandparent-like figure in your church; you may decide that this is something worth spending time on.
Parental involvement: As with all your child’s activities, parental involvement is very important. If parents are prohibited or strongly discouraged from being involved, then don’t even consider attending this group. However, if parental involvement is welcomed and you are able to see, know, and hear what your child is doing and being taught; then it could be a worthwhile experience for you and your child both.
Why the need for segregation? This is a question that is not asked enough. Why are the teens being segregated from the rest of the church and the family? Why not, instead, have church activities for the entire family? Why is it that in most churches (which should be promoting the Biblical family) families are expected to divide up into age-segregated groups/classes the moment they step foot in the door?
Our church does have a youth group which seems to function as a social group for the teens. My children participate on a very limited basis and never without a parent present. Our church also has family activities on a regular basis. I have noticed at these activities that the youth will come together and stay together until they leave. It’s as if they do not know how to fellowship with the rest of the church body because they are used to being their own group. It saddens me to see this happen. It’s almost as if we’re telling them, “You don’t fit in with us, we don’t know what to do with you, so go over there and talk amongst yourselves.”
If you are a parent that feels like you don’t know what to do with your teenager, then your relationship with your child obviously needs some work. Valuable time spent in a youth group could instead be spent together as a family to help strengthen your relationship with your child. Even if you don’t feel like you know your child well, you know him/her better than anyone else on this planet. Your child needs someone to talk to and someone to come to when he needs help. That person should be you, not a youth group leader. Your church may have several youth leaders over the years, but your child will always have you and your spouse as parents.