As time goes by, the numbers of Christian teens falling away continue to climb. One of the main causes of the problem is that we expect so little from the youth in the church. If a teen comes to worship and class periods and makes it to some of the youth group activities, we consider them to be doing well. The fact is, we treat them like youth group members and not Christians. What should we expect from teens?
First, we should expect to see spiritual growth. Many times we see a teen get baptized at 13, and by the time they turn 18 we just hope they can stay faithful through college. Anyone else that has been a Christian for 5 years is expected to be an involved, faithful member. We should expect nothing less from teens. The commandment to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18) applies to Christians of all ages. We need to teach them to study God’s Word and guide them into a strong relationship with God that is based on their own faith, not the faith of their peers or youth minister.
Second, we should expect to see involvement. There’s nothing wrong with teens attending youth activities, but in many cases that’s all we expect from them. If they are Christians, they are members of the church, not the youth group. They should have a willingness to serve in any area the church needs, whether it’s teaching classes for the little ones, helping prepare for church activities, spending time encouraging others, or any other area that needs their help.
Third, we should expect them to be setting a positive moral example for those both younger and older than them. A Christian is a Christian, no matter what age. Once you become a Christian, you take on the task of living a life for Christ. Teens are no different. They should be setting a Christ-like example in language, dress, relationships, and any activity they take part in. We know that 1 Timothy 4:12 wasn’t exactly written to teenagers, but it applies in the fact that no matter what age you are, it’s fair to expect Christians of every age to live as an example of all believers in “speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.”
As we raise our expectations for teens, let us who are older set the example and help them meet those expectations. The ultimate goal is to help as many people get to heaven as possible, and by challenging each other to reach for a greater relationship with God and His church, we can help spur each other on toward the goal.