I was 13 years old, and I attended church for the first time in my life. Over the next seven years, I became a believer, sensed my call to preach, preached the Word for the first time, and accepted my first pastorate of a small church. When I reflect on those years, here’s what I might say to pastors, student ministers, student leaders, and churches:
- A teenager on fire for Jesus can make a difference. I’m deeply grateful that my classmate, Randy, didn’t wait to “grow up” to tell me about Jesus. Challenge teens to stand up and speak the gospel!
- A teenager will remember a pastor who gives him some time. My pastor didn’t specifically disciple me, but he did invite me to make evangelistic visits with him – and today I’m a professor of evangelism. He gave me opportunities to preach, even when I sometimes was a zealous, arrogant teen.
- Small group leaders change teenage lives. Our church had Sunday school classes, but our teachers shared life with us. We spent time in their homes, attended conferences, and just enjoyed our Christianity together. I remember my teachers by name, and I can tell you a life lesson I learned from each of them.
- Don’t be afraid to give teens an opportunity to serve. Back then, we had an annual “Youth Sunday” where teens taught Sunday school classes, led worship, shared testimonies, and preached. That’s not a bad idea, as several of us from that group got our ministry start on one of those weekends. Take the risk, and let your teens serve.
- A church family can heal a lot of wounds. I was raised in a non-Christian home. In many ways, my church family gave me hope, encouragement, purpose, and love. They changed me – just like your church can change teenagers, too.
- While still working with parents, intentionally develop adult mentors for teens. I didn’t have this kind of person, but that’s one reason why I encourage it now. I likely would have struggled less as a teenage believer had I not struggled alone.
Thanks to all who sacrificially serve Christ by serving students!