Disrespectful, Thoughtless, Selfish! Yes, Your Church Can Reach “Kids These Days”

How can churches show the youth of our neighborhoods that we love them?

Disrespectful, thoughtless, destructive and selfish!

That’s what kids these days are! Including the youth in our neighborhood.

Our church had a new sign installed just before Christmas. It took three years to design, raise funds and build it. It looks great. But the day it was installed, teenagers from the neighborhood were flipping their skateboards along the base of the sign, threatening to gouge holes in it.

My youth pastor caught them red-handed, and do you know what he did? He told them we love having them here, he asked them not to skateboard on the sign, then he invited them in for church—and they came in.

What he didn’t do was get mad at them. Or call them any of the names in my first sentence.

Our next step? Install extra grind-stoppers—bumpers that are designed to keep skateboarders off of valuable property—so they can’t do it again.

Call Out the Best in Them

There’s a segment of the adult population that’s constantly complaining about “kids these days.” Some of them are my fellow pastors. When they start griping about how bad the youth of today are, I always jump to defend the youth by telling everyone about how great the kids in our church are. They’re some of the most faithful, hardest-working church members we have.

When I do that, I’m often met with amazement. I’ve even been told that I must live in some kind of bubble where the youth are exceptionally kind and gentle.

No.

Those kids who almost gouged holes in our new sign weren’t strangers. They’re members of our youth group. They ride their skateboards to church, drop them off at the door, grab a donut from the lobby then sit in church (many of them in the front row) with their baseball caps turned backwards as they worship with gusto and take notes on the sermon.

The reason I brag about the kids in our church isn’t because we’re in some bubble of innocence. It’s because we choose to see the best in them, not the worst. And when we do, the best comes out from them.

As I wrote in an earlier post, “We Can Whine About the New Generation or We Can Minister to Them—but We Can’t Do Both.”

Putting People First

Young people who need Jesus are on our church property all the time. They may be hanging around yours, too. They may even have some destructive tendencies. Sometimes they do it without realizing the consequences of their actions. That’s a big part of what being a teen is all about. And that’s why they need godly adults in their lives.

We have the choice of chasing them away and complaining about “kids these days,” or letting them know we’re glad they’re here and inviting them to participate in the life of the church.

But we have to meet them where they are first. For our church, that means we spend more money on grindstoppers and repainting than we do on fresh flowers and stained glass.

Getting mad at them and chasing them off our property would have protected our sign—for now. But it would have chased them away from Jesus, too. Loving them gives us a chance to introduce them to Jesus.

Youth today aren’t any less respectful than youth have ever been. For proof of that we just need to remember how our parents and grandparents complained about us.

Where the youth of today end up depends to a large degree on how we respond to them. Especially in the church.

This generation doesn’t need to be told how bad they are. And they sure don’t need to feel like they’re less valuable to us than a church sign—even a new one.

They need what every generation has needed. They need to hear how much Jesus loves them—and to see the proof of that from a church that loves them, no matter what.

Karl Vaters
Karl Vaters is the author of The Grasshopper Myth: Big Churches, Small Churches and the Small Thinking That Divides Us. He’s been in pastoral ministry for over 30 years and has been the lead pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Fountain Valley, California for over 20 years. He’s also the founder of NewSmallChurch.com, a blog that encourages, connects and equips innovative Small Church pastors.