Why I Made My Kids Go to Youth Group

Youth group

Yup. I was that parent. My kids had to go to church. They also had to go to youth group.

It had nothing to do with me being a pastor. It had everything to do with me being a Christian father wanting to pass on my values to my children, and having the humility to know I needed help with that.

I suppose if I were a legalist, mean-spirited, or authoritarian, and didn’t have a close relationship with them, it might have backfired. But I’ve never understood why parents who would not dream of allowing their kids to drop out of school, feel they shouldn’t “make” their kids attend church or youth group.

Academics are important. But if we really believe what we say we believe, do academics compare to our relationship with God and his family? What about sports or the other activities that we strongly encourage? More important for life than God’s family?

For a couple of reasons, we had to deal with teenagers who wanted to stop going to youth group. But it wasn’t an option in our family. Just like being a Ziegler meant you were going to stay in school, being a Ziegler meant you were going to stay in church and committed to youth group. Here were our reasons.

  • We wanted support and influence of godly young adult leaders who our kids could identify with, be influenced by, and serve as examples for them. This was a big part of our parenting strategy for teens. We did our best to teach them ourselves and to live consistent Christian lives in front of them. But we also understood the nature of those teenage years–a pulling away from parents in order to take ownership of their own faith and values. That’s when we as parents need to make sure they are surrounded by others who will support those same values and inspire them to follow Jesus. Today, our kids are still in communication with some of their former youth leaders who did just that.
  • We wanted to teach them commitment to their local church. American evangelicalism is known for it’s shallow consumerism where people shop for the church that best entertains and then as soon as they are disappointed they leave to go shopping for the next one. We criticize that. But when our kids complain about things not going just right, social conflict, or a message that doesn’t amuse, we give them permission to drop out. So what do we expect them to do when they are adults? That consumerism mindset doesn’t just disappear. Linda and I used to say to our kids, “That’s YOUR youth group. It’s not what you get out of it that matters most. It’s what you put into it. There are kids there who need you. And you’ll get the most out of the things that you are committed to.”
  • We wanted them to be part of something they could invite their lost friends to. And youth group was that for them. Today they have Christian friends who are involved in local churches who first started going when invited by them.
  • We needed a catalyst for positive peer pressure. Not all the kids in any youth group are positive influences at all times. Parents still need to be involved, to know what their kids are doing, talking about, etc. While kids at youth group are also sinners, for the most part, they are our kids. And it’s a great place for them to hang with each other, challenge each other and encourage each other.

In my next post, I’ll give some suggestions on how to involve your middle schoolers and high schoolers in the church in a way that draws them in rather than sending them away.

8 Responses to Why I Made My Kids Go to Youth Group

  1. Cathy Sears May 15, 2014 at 5:40 pm #

    You are a wise man, Scott. I sure could have used this advice when I was raising my sons.

    • Pastor Scott Ziegler May 15, 2014 at 6:34 pm #

      Thanks Cathy. Starting our spiritual journeys at different points in our lives has their own unique challenges. But God loves to get involved and intervene all along the way. I’ll be praying for your boys in that!

      • Cathy Sears May 16, 2014 at 4:04 pm #

        Thank you!

  2. D. Cook May 15, 2014 at 6:37 pm #

    I “made” my children go to church, youth group, etc. When they turned 18, none wanted to go and still don’t go. Makes a mom’s heart intensely sad.

    • Scott Ziegler May 16, 2014 at 6:01 pm #

      I’m sorry to hear that. There is nothing that is more difficult for a parent. But God is not finished with them. And even when we do everything right, our kids have to make their own choices as adults. It’s just our job to present all of the information to them and point them down the right path. After that, they have to make their own decisions.

  3. Maurine Conti May 16, 2014 at 10:27 am #

    I wish my head was in a different place when my daughter was in her teen years. I regret that I didn’t accept Christ until I was 50 years old, but now I have the opportunity to influence my grandchildren and that brings me joy.

    • Scott Ziegler May 16, 2014 at 6:03 pm #

      Good point, Maurine. But you are also still your daughter’s mom, and she looks up to you more than you probably know. Who knows what your influence will still have with her.

  4. Maurine Conti May 16, 2014 at 9:37 pm #

    So true…and I needed to hear that. Thank you. No matter how old I become, I think my daughter will always look up to me. I have to remember that!

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