Engaging Adolescents

I’m hosting a consultation this week on Churches engagement with the 14+ age range. Whilst there are great things happening in youth ministry I’m also concerned that many churches that had a volunteer led group that engaged with adolescents in the past, no longer have. I’m seeing a number of factors such as:

  • Fear of adolescents
  • Lack of volunteers
  • An emphasis on work with children and tweens’ (easier to achieve a critical mass)
  • No change of methodologies despite the inherited attractional one no longer working
  • A difficulty in communicating and exploring faith with post christendom young people.


The gathering is to look at whether there is a trend here … and if so what help and support churches need.
If anyone has any stats’ from any denomination that I could have that would be fab. Any evidence that agrees or disagrees would be useful, and any questions that arise in your mind.

8 Replies to “Engaging Adolescents”

  1. I am intrigued with the notion of ‘the inherited attractional model not working’ theory. It is interesting that actually – it does still work. Local councils are less committed to buildings and therefore put pockets of money into areas for ‘a trip to Alton towers’ or ‘a concert of local bands’. They can tick the box for that area a d HEY the attractional model works. Same in church circles – Hillsongs? Etc attractional model? and many other organisations and outfits do this. What we can say is that it doesn’t , largely work, as a discipleship model. Let’s be aware of generalisations at the expense of good critical thinking- if we as youth ministers carry on down this road of wordy theological generalisations we miss the larger more critical issue

  2. Tim,
    thanks for this, a very good point
    I was scribbling too hastily … and definitely, as you rightly say, made an over generalisation. My thinking is specifically about small churches with a volunteer led group that relies on the idea of ‘we have a group’ and therefore young people will come. I think various factors (and especially smaller churches not having a critical mass of teenagers anymore) mean that this is still the model of working until the group folds for lack of numbers.
    But even this may be too general.
    I’m interested in the churches that used to work with teenagers but no longer do.

  3. I am going to throw out there the view that some young people need space from their very churched backgrounds and when they reach adolescence it is an opportunity to take this space…. in my experience youth church groups do not seem to allow for this period of exploration, doubts, challenges, sceptism etc …. I have found parental anxiety an issue too …. pressure from parents to pursue young people … which is not my way with my family or at work.

  4. great comments but must admit when i saw the title i thought that adolescents were too young to be engaged – sorry.

  5. Also wondering if the general gap of 20/ 30 somethings in Church has an impact; I know of Churches where the youth work has folded because the volunteers opt out when they have ‘served their time,’ feeling it’s time to hand it on the the younger leaders who are better able to relate to the teens… except they are either not there, or not willing. There are so few role models of what it looks like to be a young adult in a Church community that no wonder a lot of young people I speak to assume that ‘faith’ is something you have until you grow out of it, and they are not always seeing older people as people they aspire to be like, because of the culture they are in?

  6. I think Kathryn makes a really interesting point….about the idea of handing on to younger leaders….although I think this is the ideal to have some young vibrant Youth Leaders that provide great role models…there are few of them around and willing! The turn over of YVYL is high too because their lives are less settled.A healthy balance between YVYL and stable long term volunteers I suggest is a better model….there is no point in great role models that change constantly…I think young people deserve long term commitment in their relationships.’Just Walk With Me’ talks about long term commitment and its importance

  7. Points 1,2,3,5 are nothing new and express more of the churches self-conscious projection of it’s own collective sense of failure than any real expression of young poeples realities.
    Point 4 I think is interesting because I would suggest that methodologies are changing, albeit slowly, and this is one of the principal reasons churches are unattractive options for young people. Churches are so unlikely to allow themselves to be challenged or changed by young people in their midst, that an already deeply cynical and disaffected youth is unlikely to make the effort.

  8. Yes good point…re-point 4 ….one possible outcome of the scenario is a cynical and frustrated youth worker…. trying to bridge the gap..even with the support of the church leaders the gap is massive.

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