In the youth groups that I’ve helped run, we’ve seen an interesting thing happen—let’s call it the “just show up principle”. It seems that in many of our churches all the youth need to do is to simply attend, and most people are satisfied. Here are the words of a young man in grade 12 during my time in Vancouver, “It didn’t take much for us to impress the adults. Before you changed things all we had to do was to show up to church once in a while and everyone was happy. If we did anything in the service everyone was ecstatic!” This is the ‘just show up principle’ that seems to be common in churches. If the youth simply show up, everyone thinks something big is going on. These same churches then scratch their heads and wonder why a large number of youth stop going to church after a few years or develop into spiritually malnourished adults.
It is crucial that good youth ministry changes this. We must place expectations of godliness on the youth (reading the Bible and putting it into practice, coming to youth group regularly, going to church, loving the newcomer etc.) and strive to see 1 Timothy 4:12 & 2 Timothy 2:22 in action. This has always been my goal. And, as I’ve done this, I’ve seen two different responses. One response is that a number of young people rise to the occasion and actually walk the walk, take Jesus seriously and grow in their faith. However, there is another response from the youth—and opposite reaction to growing in their faith. Many youth don’t actually want to be all that godly. They are content with simply showing up and not taking Jesus with much degree of seriousness. These youth tend to drop out of the group or slowly fade away as time goes by.
Now, please hear me, I’m not saying that their leaving is a good thing. Far from it. However, this doesn’t mean that we simply adopt the “just show up and we’ll all be happy principle”. We must shape our youth ministries to encourage and equip godly behavior. In fact, this must be the expectation placed on those who claim to want to follow Jesus. Think Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler – Jesus places godly demands on him, the young man walks.
The one great thing is, when the godly rise to the challenge, everyone wins and the program begins to hum. Bible study is appreciated, worship is hearty, prayer is expected and desired and evangelism is seen as crucial.
So, in short, here is what I’m saying:
-Placing godly expectations on your youth group is a wise, Biblical thing to do (eg. Colossians 1:28).
-Realize that there will be two different reactions (eg. Luke 18:18-25).
-While one will be sad and somewhat painful, the other will be glorious, and, offsets the negative.