The teenagers I work with don’t need the church to structure social opportunities for them. This might have been a valuable aspect of youth ministry at one time–filling kids’ calendars with welcoming and healthy gatherings with their peers–but it doesn’t seem to be anymore. Youth seem to me to have more than enough positive social commitments between classmates, teammates, band mates, choir mates, and even neighbors.
We tried this. We made a calendar of weekly summer events to get youth together. A trip to the museum. A day at the beach. Free movies in the park. Participation has been almost null. Almost.
My conclusion: gathering their peers around them is not something most teenagers need the church to be doing for them.
Facilitating meaningful mission service is. A bunch of youth eagerly give a week of their summer to that. So is exploring faith. Sunday youth group is humming. Even full court recreation is a valuable contribution to teens’ lives that churches are making; see the demand for lock-ins.
Let’s all get together doesn’t seem all that compelling without a Why.