The Stigmatized and Neglected: Youth And The Church

The Verses Project feat. Kayla Sanders (Bible App by YouVersion)

The Verses Project feat. Kayla Sanders (Bible App by YouVersion)

Lazy, apathetic, self-serving, self-entitled, disrespectful, troublemaking, change-agents.

If we were playing Catchphrase, by now someone in the room would inevitably blurted out the word “teenager.”

Granted, you’ve probably met some teenagers that would fit that description. At the same time, you’ve probably met some people in their 30s and 40s that would fit that description, too.

Don’t you love labels?

Speaking of labels, I’m a millennial.[1] According to the experts, so is every teenager alive right now.

It’s not often that a 31 year old, full-time youth minister (I think I just became the most dangerous breed of millennial in existence?) with a wife, and two kids is in the same category as an 11 year old boy in my youth group whose parents won’t let him have Snapchat (by the way, thank you, parents of said 11 year old boy), but categorically speaking, I guess that I am. I would call myself more of a “millennial falcon,” a term I made up to describe someone on the older, more battle-hardened end of the millennial spectrum. The one still sitting in his bean bag chair waiting for a “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” reboot on PBS.

I say all of that to say this: can we please stop talking about us for a minute?

Honestly, I’m sort of sick of us, or at least reading/hearing/talking/strategizing/complaining/ worrying about us.

I assure you, we’re nothing special. Millennials are not the X-Men (although how cool would that be?!?), a new specie of human genetically programmed to rule the world. We’re just people, people made in the image of God. Then again, we are special.

You don’t need a new strategy to reach people today. It’s the same strategy given from the beginning.

“And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another.” 2 John 5

Those “lazy, apathetic, self-serving, self-entitled, disrespectful, troublemaking, change-agents” that the world expects very little of, speak and respond to the universal language of the heart: love. Love, the language of God. God, after all, is love.

Besides being a Snapchat-less millennial, what do I have in common with that 11 year old boy? What do a single guy in his 20s, a single mother raising two kids, a 90 year old widow, and newborn twin babies have in common?

At first glance, nothing, but a closer glance would reveal that we all share a common need: love.

There are parts of all of us—hearts, feelings, needs—that are endowed by our Creator, not by our culture, that are timeless, not generational, that are fundamental, not socio-economical, that are universal, not national.

You wanna know the secret to reaching millennials? Teenagers? Baby boomers? Young professionals?

The secret to reaching people like Jesus is take off the label and love people like Jesus. While loving people is nothing unique, loving people like Jesus is.

John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Again, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to reach teens or millennials or fill-in-the-blank. Maybe we all just need to put a little air in the tires: do everything we can to get really, really good at loving people.


Philip Jenkins is the Youth Minister at Mt. Juliet Church of Christ. He and his wife Laura have two kids named Lucas and Holley. He serves as the chairman of Evangelism University and has authored two books: Take Route, an evangelistic Bible study, and The Lunch Ladies: Cultivating an Actsmosphere. He and his brother Andrew just co-founded Clues Bros., a mobile, escape game business that hosts the entire puzzle-solving experience on site. Check it out!

Look for him on Twitter and Instagram.