Why are some Churches experiencing a drought of young people today? Callum Thomas, one of the speakers for this year’s Teen Street Conference, believes it could be partly because our leaders aren’t putting enough faith in them.
Some people think about teenagers as the future of the Church, but they are the Church right now.
Thomas has been called “a disciple multiplier” for young people in Australia. Talking to 20Twenty’s Neil Johnson, he explained that church leaders often see teenagers as people to invest in, with the hope of making use of them when they’re older and more mature. He says that’s a big mistake.
Instead, he believes teenagers really need us to believe in them, and encourage them to step out in faith. “That can happen in church. That can happen in youth group. That can happen at a camp or at a conference. But I think that is a massive need for teenagers right now.”
Of course, the Teen Street Conference, running from 8 to 11 July this year, has had to move online. But the organisers have been thinking of creative ways to inspire the same kind of community and culture they’re known for. “We’re investing heavily into the relational aspect of an event like this, because that’s what makes Teen Street and a lot of these events stand out.”
Because he’s now based in Canada, this change is in fact what allowed Callum, and other speakers from various locations, to be part of the event. “Last year we got to be all in the same room together, and that was awesome. But this year we have to be in different rooms anyway. So why not be in America or Canada?”
Thomas says there’s a danger of young people being side-tracked by some of the other social movements that are taking the world by storm, but don’t provide real answers. “Teenagers need something to fight for. They crave something to be part of, bigger than themselves. And what is really sad and burdens me is when the world offers them sub-causes.”
“Now there are amazing causes to get behind, organisations to get behind, movements to get behind, and they can be doing some significant things absolutely, but the greatest cause that we can ever be part of is the Church.”
“Teenagers will seldom discover this on their own. I believe, and I’ve experienced, that they need something to show them that the Gospel is something they can fight for, and to speak out about, and to be passionate about. And when that happens it is beautiful. It can happen, it does happen, it is happening around the world.”
Working as a Youth Pastor, Thomas came to understand that though they’ll need continual leadership and guidance, it’s important to encourage young people to spread the Gospel, in their schools, sports teams or even on the Mission field.
That means we should be trying to harness the energy and passion that comes with youth, so they can evangelise boldly. “If we don’t let them do that now,” he said, “then how can we ever expect them to do it when they’re adults?”
Being trusted to spread the Word early was crucial to Thomas’s own faith journey. “I didn’t have all the answers, but I got skin in the game. I was on team Jesus. I wasn’t on the bench. I was on the field, and somebody showed me, and lead the way for me to be able to do that.”
“And that is what we want teenagers to grow up into. And like anything we’ve got to start as soon as possible, while they’re young, energetic, passionate. They’ve got the imagination. Let’s just point them in the right direction.”
To find out more about this year’s Teen Street conference, visit the event’s website.
Tune into 20Twenty and join the conversation with Neil Johnson, weekdays on Vision Christian Radio. Click here for your local times.