Just for Dads ~ July 2022

by Ward Williams
Executive director, Vineyard Family Services

The leaders of First Baptist Church of Corpus Christi changed multiple rules upon my entrance into the youth group when I started seventh grade.

Members of the youth group had for many years sat on the left balcony side of the worship center, but once I joined, we were forced to sit on the first two rows closest to the pulpit. Adults seemed to want me close by in hopes that would keep me somewhat still and quiet. It was an admirable task that never seemed to work well.

My interest in attending church in my junior high years was centered on the brand-new, state-of-the-art gymnasium and rec center, their discounted cafeteria, and maybe a couple of cute girls. The senior pastor and my youth pastor were always encouraging us to bring friends to church. If getting people to church meant God was happy, He was certainly smiling down on me, but it never seemed the adults in the place were happy that unruly teenagers used the church and its facilities as their personal unsupervised hang-out club. New rules on the number of guests who could be at the rec center were established. I am very thankful for the adults who showed patience and grace to me and my friends during those years, and I got deeply involved with church throughout my high school years.

Ismael Paramo | Unsplash

One of the biggest benefits of being involved in my youth group was the model of happy and healthy families and finding a group of teenagers who were committed to seeking God’s truth for our lives. One of my closest youth group friends recently passed away from cancer, and a flood of memories from many years ago were vivid and transported me back in time. I was so fortunate to have friends to go to the beach, lake, concerts, camps, retreats, and other fun, meaningful events. According to an extensive national survey by Springtide Research Institute titled “The State of Religion & Young People 2020: Relational Authority,” today’s teenagers don’t trust church. Statistics show:

· 52% of affiliated young people have little to no trust in organized religion.

· Nearly 3 out of 4 young people are religious; only 16% see their faith community as a place they can turn to in times of uncertainty.

· 1 in 3 young people feel completely alone much of the time.

If you want to help your kid plug into a church group, you must be deliberate and partner in navigating that relationship. There is a hunger by our kids and teenagers to be connected to something deeper and make a difference. There is a recognition by many churches that what has worked in the past won’t work with today’s teenagers. Getting kids plugged into church starts with the parents’ view of church. In today’s busy world, make it a family priority to put God and church first, which could mean that you have to say no to some of the activities that keep us so busy. The impact of your kids’ involvement in church will influence all areas of their lives and have a direct impact on the quality and direction of their lives.

Ward Williams is the founder and executive director of Vineyard Family Services. Contact him at ward@vfsdads.com.

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