Depending on your source, 40-88% of teens leave the church after they graduate. Most never return. Is modern youth ministry to blame? That’s what one article and recently-produced documentary film suggest.

This is a touchy subject for me because I’m the product of a youth group. I grew up in youth groups, attended summer camps, led small groups, was a counselor at a summer camp, and eventually served as a middle school youth pastor for 5 1/2 years before moving to Tennessee to plant a church.

I always assumed the church I planted would have a youth group, but that’s because that is all I knew.

We’re almost 2 years into the church plant and Awaken Church still doesn’t have a youth group… but that doesn’t mean we ignore students. We view students as valuable pieces to the church. I love seeing young people sitting next to their parents, learning and applying similar things together. A good percentage of those who publicly profess their faith in Christ are young people. 4 of the 10 people we baptized last month were under the age of 17! We will soon be relaunching Awaken Students, which is a small group initiative targeted at young people. It’s not your typical youth group.

Awaken Kids exists to train kids up and teach them God’s Word on their level beginning gat 8 weeks old. They remain with Awaken Kids, in a class meant for their age group, until they hit 6th grade. Once they’re in middle school, they join us in the main service for church.

They worship with us.

They take Communion with us.

They pray with us.

I even encourage them to serve in ministries within the church.

Awaken Students is the other key component for them. Just as we encourage all people at Awaken to be involved in an Awaken Group, we encourage the same with the students. It’s a place where they can go, hang out with others their age, and discuss (in a small group setting) some of the key application points from last Sunday’s message…which is the same thing their parents do in their own small group.

I haven’t watched all of the film that I mentioned above, so I can’t vouch for everything that is said. I also know that the article seems to hint at the fact that modern youth ministry is to blame for kids leaving the church. I wouldn’t take it that far. I’ve seen some life-changing things happen through youth groups…in fact, it was my training ground!

Although I disagree with the film’s slant and have seen evidence of God using youth ministry in my life and in my own youth ministry, I thought this was a good conversation starter. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what your stance and/or your church’s stance on youth ministry is…