“Whenever the church doors are open, you will be at church!”

How many people grew up hearing that from a parent, a church leader or their pastor? If you grew up in the 90s or before, chances are church attendance and Christianity were tied closely together. If you want to grow as a Christian, you must be present in the church building. Well, I’m not here to argue for or against that point, but I do want to talk about teens today and their approach to church attendance and Christianity.

Is church attendance an important part of Christianity? Yes. But ask most teens, and they will tell you that Sunday morning church is too early or geared toward adults. Parents, ask yourself the following question: Did you pick the church you attend because you like it or because it’s the best place for your kids to grow as young Christian teens? My guess is most people attend church because it’s close, it’s a habit and it’s easy (no commitment expected), and because they feel a sense of duty.

What makes your teen want to attend church? I recently heard a young man tell his mom church was a waste of an hour and half of his life each week. Why would he say that? Here are some clues:

  1. None of his friends attend church, or they don’t go to that one.
  2. Mom made him go instead of asking where he wanted to go.
  3. Most 13- to 17-year-olds don’t enjoy sitting in a room full of adults singing and listening to someone talk at them for 60 minutes.

Those are just a few guesses why this young man said what he said to his mom. Let me say this before I go on: DO NOT COMPROMISE THE WORD OF GOD. Change the approach, the style, the lighting, the music, etc. God’s Word is alive and active. Students want to hear the truth. As adults, we don’t need to “water down” the message for teens — we need to change the approach.

Teens are different today than when their parents grew up. Teens have access to iPods, iPhones, texting, Twitter and more. Right or wrong, they want to interact in a church service catered to their generation. Attending church doesn’t make them any more or any less of a Christian. Yes, church attendance is good and helps each person grow as a Christian. But today’s teen is being challenged to grow as a Christian beyond just the church walls.

How do we overcome this generation gap? A few years ago, I was helping with a cookout for teens over the Fourth of July weekend. I thought it would be a good idea to have some music playing while the teens showed up to the picnic. I rummaged through my CDs and realized my iPod was better-suited to the task than playing one CD after another. So, I put together a playlist of Christian artists and hit play. I had groups like Grits, LeCrae, Mercy Me, Matthew West, Trip Lee and TobyMac playing while I cooked and waited for kids to show up. The problem was with some of my helpers from an older generation. They were appalled by the music choices and quickly let me know. They wanted softer music, such as hymns. Hymns are great, just not for this occasion.

Here are a few suggestions for overcoming the generation gap.

  1. Be willing to accept and embrace teen culture. Send teens text messages or tweet a positive word or Bible verse. Let them introduce you to their favorite Christian music.
  2. Make church teen-friendly. Play some of their music during service, and ask them questions during the message. Don’t baby them or water it down. Just be aware of their attendance.
  3. Make sure teens have a place they can go to hang out and be with other teens, e.g., a youth group or youth room.
  4. Communicate clearly to teens and adults the purpose of Sunday morning church. If your church has a youth program, communicate to the teens the night, time, etc., and let them know this program is geared toward them.
  5. Ask for their input on how to make church better.

We have some great teens out there. Be a good example – encourage, build up, listen and guide. Don’t force them to do it your generation’s way!

To learn more about how to bridge the worship generation gap in your congregation or your home, contact us today.