Most people decide to follow Jesus between the ages of 4-14. This has been called the 4-14 Window. And if you are in church ministry being mindful of this window could be the most important thing you do. It is certainly why I believe that kidmin is the most important ministry of the church.
Kidmin is the most important ministry of the church.
I think that the 14-24 Window may be the next most important. While many decide to follow Jesus between 4-14, what their lives will look like, whether they will be fully devoted followers of Christ or just church attenders, whether they will be spiritual champions or spiritual second-handers is largely shaped by the decisions they make between ages 14-24. This is a monumental time in a person’s life that we cannot afford to neglect.
The evidence seems to bear out—that the church at large is not doing a very good job at this. In fact it was suggested in a recent article that we shouldn’t really be concerned with this age group at all. Instead, we should just chalk it up to stage of life and wait until they come back to the church in their mid-thirties. The short sightedness of this article made my toes curl. Most of the people I know who are in ministry today made decisions to commit their lives to service between 14-24. We are seriously impacting the future leaders of the Kingdom of God by neglecting this age group.
The most important aim we can have for 14-24 year olds is helping them find their place in God’s Story—helping them commit their lives to meaningful service in the Kingdom of God.
Here are just a few foundational things churches can do to leverage this spiritual window.
1. Connect youth with mature Christian adults. The more the better. Check out Family Based Youth Ministry by Mark Devries.
2. Get 14-24 year olds in circles. Real small groups where a mature Christian adult is investing in a small group of students every week. Better yet, have this person travel with them through high school and college. Yes, even through college.
3. Don’t let ministry end at graduation. The average 18 year old will be making most of their most life altering decisions in the first few years of college. Most youth are virtually abandoned on graduation day.
4. Incorporate 20somethings into a total ministry strategy from birth through 25. So much is wasted because Children’s Ministry, Youth Ministry and College Ministry leaders don’t play well together. The bodies left in the gaps between these silos is staggering. We must come together and develop a unified strategy.
5. Think beyond your curriculum. The destination of a series of classes or a curriculum is more knowledge. More knowledge and more classes cannot be a substitute for people doing life together.
6. Youth and 20somethings must have a sense of belonging in the church not just the youth ministry. Check out this interview with Chuck Bomar.
7. Help youth find their place in God’s Story.
8. Connect the Church and home. What happens at home always trumps what happens at church.