Not Just Okay – It’s Necessary
Whether we realize it or not, it’s not just okay, but necessary to hold teens accountable to their faith. I remember when I was in high school, my youth minister laid out a daily reading plan for me. There was a certain number of chapters from the Old Testament, chapters from the New Testament, a Psalm, and Proverb every day.
We met together once a week to talk about what we were reading. I’d have time to ask questions about the stories – why things happened the way they did, or why God did things the way He did. And I remember once asking my youth minister if it was okay to listen to music while I read the Bible. Twenty-some years later, I still remember his thoughtful response.
He asked me if the music distracted me from the Scripture text. Did I find myself paying more attention to the music than the words I was reading?
It’s Not Easy To Be Held Accountable
See, as a teen, it wasn’t exactly an easy thing for me to stick to. Sitting in the quiet of my room, with just my Teen Study Bible was…well, it was boring. Yes, I wanted to grow in my knowledge and faith. But to sit down every day and read Scripture…I almost felt like it was asking too much.
But I also remember this – because of the decision I had recently made to follow Christ – my youth minister expected more of me.
Being a Christ follower was about more than just saying the words, it was about more than simply saying “I believe.”
It was about letting my actions speak out as well. It was about wanting to know Christ fully and using my life to actively speak and portray Christ’s love to others.
My youth minister knew this! And I know this now as I sit with teens in my youth group.
I want to hold the teens in my group accountable to a higher standard. I want them to know that following Christ is about so much more than attending youth group on Sunday afternoons. It’s about more than coming to Wednesday night Bible study.
Those things are good, don’t get me wrong. But having a full-on relationship with Christ is about more than that, right?
It’s about letting my life speak, diving deep into Scripture to discover God more fully, worshipping the Creator daily, and praying constantly.
We’re Called To Accountability
Being a Christ-follower is about holding each other accountable when we step from the path – when things get messy. Paul writes this to the churches in Galatia when he says, “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important” (Galatians 6:1-3 NLT).
As a youth minister, this kind of hits me to the core. You are not that important. Ouch!
We Have A Job To Do
Our students need to know that being a Christ-follower means sharing the responsibility of being a Christ-follower with others. It means being able to recognize that missteps happen. It means understanding how to lovingly bring fellow Christ-followers back onto the path.
It’s not about pointing fingers and passing blame, but about taking responsibility for the times we mess up. It’s about repenting of one’s sins and moving forward in a loving community.
See, as youth ministers, we are called to help train and equip the teens in our youth groups for life after youth group. Are we giving our young people the tools they need to continue growing in their faith once they graduate from high school?
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The Bible study I started with my youth minister as a high schooler helped instill within me the discipline of daily reading – Scripture, devotions, etc. But maybe that’s not a feasible thing for you to do as a youth minister. Daily praying for your teens, weekly reminders, and encouragement for them to stick to their reading plans, even offering a simple daily post on social media may be enough to push your young people toward a discipline of daily faith practices.
Online Content – An Important Way To Help Hold Teens Accountable
Speaking of social media, maybe you’re like me and you follow your teens on social media. Many of my teens love sharing stories on Snapchat. They love making videos and sharing them on TikTok and taking photos and posting them to Instagram.
As their youth minister, I love seeing their creativity, goofiness, and style come through in what they post. But I’m also quick to reach out when I see posts that I find questionable or concerning.
I’ve had multiple conversations with teens about what they post and the impression that leaves on others. If what they’re posting calls into question their character as a Christ-follower, maybe they need to reconsider posting it.
The key here is gentle and respectful conversation.
Living Our Own Accountability
I’m not perfect in my faith. I need a faith community to walk alongside me and let me know when I need to do better. I, just like the youth people in my youth group, need to know that I’m accepted and loved when I mess up.
But as a youth minister, I also need to take responsibility for my own actions. I cannot expect to hold the teens in my youth group accountable to standards I do not hold to myself.
When on social media, I always keep my audience in mind – knowing that many of the young people in my group follow me on various accounts. I try not to post or share anything that could call my character as a Christ-follower into question.
As a teen, I needed someone to call me out on my faith. I needed someone to challenge me and help me keep the path of Christ in focus. As a youth minister, I want to do the same thing for the young people in my church- when we hold teens accountable, we give them faith tools to equip them for life after high school.
Sarah Taylor has been the youth director at Gulf Cove United Methodist Church in Port Charlotte, Florida, since 2017. She has a Master’s Degree in Youth Ministry from Wesley Seminary as well as a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. She loves books and writing, has a borderline obsession with Harry Potter and Gilmore Girls, and loves Cherry Pepsi. She lives in North Port, Florida, with her 14-year-old cat, Milo.