“A student ministry, high school leader?” That's what I said when Jerry Hines, pastor of Woodside Student Ministries, first asked me to help out in his ministry four years ago. I had teenagers of my own, why would I want to spend my free time with more teenagers? I told him I would help out until he built up his team of leaders. Well, here I am. After numerous retreats, small group "get togethers", Project Radiates and hundreds of hours on buses, I can't imagine my life without the high school students of Woodside Bible Church.
As a parent and a high school leader I think I have an interesting perspective. Teenagers seem to get a bad rap in our society. They are considered selfish, impulsive, lazy, and rebellious and yes, some can be. Spending what could seem like endless hours with WSM students I am confident that teenagers can be selfless,caring, cautious, hardworking and surprisingly pliable. The students I have spent time with want to do what is right in the eyes of God and their parents. Do they always do the right thing, no, but who does?
The students of Woodside are a good representation of their schools and our neighborhoods. There are teens that take drugs, have been abused, have parents who are divorced or divorcing, are having sex, are failing school and have very little hope in their future. I have spoken to teens that have been in all of these situations and it's heart breaking. The difference between WSM students and the average teenager is Jesus Christ. When students begin to study God’s word and realize what Christ has done for them they gain the confidence they need to start making better choices. I have personally watched a teenage girl go from obnoxious and depressed to cheerful and respectful, because of her realization that Christ cared for her and that there are people on this earth that love and cared for her other than her parents. I've talked to a teenage boy that had so much hatred for the bullies at his school, that he wanted to kill them. After talking to him about making Godly choices and the hard choice to love his enemies, I witnessed the weight of the world being lifted and his attitude changed. He realized that God could help him love his enemies.
The point of this information is to encourage parents. Parents of young children, work diligently at keeping your kids in church. Instead of offering it as a choice, make it a regular and consistent priority in the life of your family. Hebrews 10:25 says: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” This applies to children as well as adults. When kids are in a church that meets their age appropriate needs, they will be far less likely to stop attending as they grow. A church that meets age appropriate needs becomes a church that also teaches age appropriate obedience, service to others, worship, humility and other important Biblical principles. I am not saying that keeping kids, especially teens, in church is easy but I do think that it makes a difference in the choices that they make. Proverbs 22:6 says: "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it."