Reaching Teenagers

Posted by Jeff Iorg on

One of the pressing challenges for Christian leaders is staying focused on our core mission of making disciples. Doing this requires evangelizing the lost, stabilizing new converts, developing stronger believers, and ultimately producing new leaders for our movement. There are so many other distracting agendas that demand attention. Staying focused on our core task is harder than ever.

In an effort to create some rallying points aligned with our mission, SBC leaders are laying out common goals to coordinate our denominational efforts in the next few years. Dr. Ronnie Floyd, president of the SBC Executive Committee, along with other entity presidents, will be presenting Vision 2025 at the SBC annual meeting in Nashville in June 2021. This is a concentrated effort to rivet our attention on a few key drivers that will make an eternal difference.

The first of those goals is to “increase full-time, fully-funded missionaries by a net gain of 500, giving us 4,200 full-time, fully-funded missionaries through the International Mission Board.” The second goal is to “add 5,000 new SBC congregations to our Southern Baptist family, giving us over 50,000 congregations.” The third goal is to “increase total workers in the field through a new emphasis on ‘calling out the called’ and then preparing those who are called out by the Lord.”

The fourth Vision 2025 goal is “turn around our ongoing decline in reaching, baptizing, and discipling 12 to 17 year-olds in the prime of their teenage years.” Despite more money, nicer facilities, and more youth pastors than ever before—we have experienced a consistent decline in impacting teenagers with the gospel. We must reverse this trend! The reasons this is a priority are obvious—the openness of teenagers to life change, the readiness of young adults to accept significant challenges, and the opportunity to reach our next generation of leaders.

One aspect of reversing this trend is creating a climate which values children and teenagers in local church ministry. One church does this extremely well. For years, at the end of every Sunday service, the pastor calls for children and teenagers to crowd around him at the front of the sanctuary. Dozens stream forward each week. Then, as part of his benediction, he prays specifically for the church’s children and teenagers. He asks God to motivate them for study, keep them from evil, give them vision for making a difference in the world, and to raise up judges, doctors, lawyers, pastors, missionaries, and politicians from among them who will use their influence to promote righteousness, justice, and timeless values.

While attending this church over the Christmas holidays, it impressed me that college students home on break slipped to the front to be part of this prayer. They had grown up experiencing this remarkable blessing-climate—and they wanted to experience it again. Seeing 20-somethings slip down the aisle and stand to the edges while younger peers crowded around the pastor moved me deeply. It was touching to see the impact on young adults who grew up in such an intentionally nurturing environment.

We have work to do. We must create a fresh movement reaching, baptizing, and discipling teenagers. It will require a whole-church effort, not just the efforts of a few youth leaders. The stakes are high. Let’s commit to fulfilling this goal and seeing millions of teenagers impacted with the gospel.

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