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Imagine if you will that your job success rate was only a 25 out of 100. How long do you think you would keep your job? The fact of the matter is that the church in America tends to only keep about 25% of young people after high school. It is the infamous, “disappearing youth” act that actually begins during the junior and senior years of High School. So the question is, “How do we keep youth in church?”

While there are numerous reasons for this exodus of youth out of the church, here are some things that are leading contributors: segregating youth from the life of the church, not enough mentoring, not enough rites of passage, and a reliance on hip/fun program-driven ministry. There are ways to address all of these concerns, however, by doing intentional intergenerational worship that puts a focus on involving youth in every aspect of worship. Here are 5 approaches to involving youth in church and keeping them involved:


It is true of human nature that people are less inclined to be involved if they don’t feel ownership. Youth are no different. For youth, make worship participatory rather than observatory. In other words, give youth serving roles. Every believer is called to serve in whatever capacity they can no matter what their age. As technically inclined as youth are, use that to your church’s advantage and have youth partner with adults to run AV, lights and sound. Other youth can serve on the worship, greeting, hospitality, stage design and other roles. This brings me to the second point.


When youth in church are partnered with caring adults and team leaders, they can be spiritually mentored. Every team your church has – from AV and worship to hospitality – should serve as a discipleship team that is grouped around their gifts and talents. Youth serving alongside adults allows your youth ministry the opportunity to engage more adults in the lives of students. Mark DeVries, author of “Family-Based Youth Ministry” and “Sustainable Youth Ministry” speaks of this as he advocates changing how we view adult to student ratio. Most youth ministries typically have 1 adult for every 5 youth. DeVries advocates reversing this ratio to 5 adults for every 1 youth. When students serve alongside adults, they are being mentored in many ways – most of which become natural.

Long-term Vision

One of the most brilliant things I was able to be a part of is when our adult worship team mentored our young students who had an interest in playing an instrument. It was a long process, but we are looking for long-term solutions, not flash in the pan glitz! Youth in 6th grade would come to practice with the adult band. They get a little extra input. Guess who eventually steps up to be a major part of the adult worship team when they become adults? You got it – the youth who are mentored – several of whom are in ministry today! (Frankly, when a crisis hit our adult worship team, our youth worship team carried the church through the summer of our crisis!)

Social Media

Our youth are gurus at social media, so why not give them some responsibility in this area? Got a Church Facebook page? Let some youth and young adults keep posts updated! Website need updating? Youth, young adults and adults can add appeal that will attract other youth and young adults! When youth feel some input and ownership of your social media (make sure it is monitored), you might be surprised just how quickly word can get out about something particularly awesome your church is doing. They are the digitally connected generation. Again, be creative and find a way to tap into their creativity!

Let them have their space

I don’t advocate “throwing the baby out with the bath.” There are times when youth need their own “space.” Maybe it is their own Bible Study, small group, or social activity. In this way, their needs get met as well and they don’t feel like they are just being used. Every now and then, the adults who are mentoring the youth who are involved in “big Church” (I hate that term) worship can serve the youth at their “special events.” All these things build relationships and camaraderie, and help keep youth in church.

Finally, everyone mistakes Deuteronomy 6 as a command only to parents. However, these commands were written to the whole Nation of Israel. In a tribal mentality, all of the nation was responsible for raising children in the ways of the Lord along with parents. What better place to model this than the church? Who knows, if all churches started inviting more young people to take ownership of worship, we just might change that 25% statistic!

Rich Griffith is a single dad to two awesome adopted sons (Aaron and Dylan), Contributor to the Teen Devotional Bible, has been in Youth Ministry for 32 years in a variety of capacities, is a Lead Pastor and the Professor of Youth Ministry at Toccoa Falls College. He is the Ministry and Leadership Department’s Online Coordinator. He is completing his Doctorate in Youth, Family and Culture at Fuller Theological Seminary.

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