Making Teen Church Classes Relevant

By Kathryn Rateliff Barr
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Almost 60 percent of church-attending teens drop out of church during their teen years, according to a September 2011 study from the Barna Group, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research group that studies faith and spirituality issues in America. If you want your teen to remain an active member of the church, you need to help your church make teen classes and activities relevant to that age group.

More Than a List

Teen classes must give youth a better understanding of what it means to be a Christian than a list of rules, according to Kara Powell, executive director of Fuller Youth Institute and co-author of “Sticky Faith.” Teens need to understand how a relationship with Jesus as Lord relates to day-to-day decisions and their relationship with other Christians. One way to do this is to study the life and teachings of Jesus and relate those to modern life, such as treating others as you want to be treated or how to pray an effective prayer of faith. Teens should also be greeted with acceptance and not judged by external circumstances such as clothing, hair style or color, tattoos or piercings.

Intergenerational Influence

The church doesn't function in age-segregated groups working on different projects. Teens need input and connection with adults of many different ages. Youth sponsors, teachers and other workers need to work cooperatively with teens to share leadership roles in and out of class. One way to do this is to pair each teen with an adult mentor in prayer, study and projects. A teen and adult team can teach each lesson, opening the floor for everyone to share and contribute to a discussion about how the Scripture applies to modern life. Powell writes that helping teens connect with adults of all ages helps the teen come into a more mature and adult faith and also benefits the church as a whole.

Faith in Action

Teens need to see that their involvement in the church matters. When a teen offers an opinion or volunteers to join a ministry or a service project, the teen should be welcomed and given the same level of respect as an adult, according to Jo Ellen Cramer Nicholson in “Keeping Teenagers in Church,” printed in the “Pentecostal Evangel,” a publication of the Assemblies of God. Challenge teen classes to choose a service project or get active in church ministries. Provide a list of opportunities in which teens can get involved to make a difference in the church and in their own lives.

Teen Issues

Teens today face many more temptations and opportunities than their parents did at this age. With easy availability of pornography on the Internet, teens in the church experiencing the same level to sexual activity as their unchurched friends and the impact of social media, it's no wonder that some teens have no idea how to deal with sexuality or other teen issues. The Gospel has be real and relevant to their lives and temptations, or it has no value, according to Dave Smith, a staff member at Grace Communion International. Classes should include difficult topics and honest answers from the Bible and life experience.

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.