But Why Are You “Really” Going to Life Teen?

If you’ve been attending Life Nights, retreats, or youth conferences for a while, you’ve almost certainly heard a talk that started with, “So, I don’t know why you’re here. Maybe your parents forced you to come, maybe a friend dragged you here…”

We glaze over this pretty casually, making light of the fact that sometimes at a youth group event, not everyone exactly chose to be there. Maybe that’s you. I totally get that – although, I always chose to be at youth group. I wasn’t one of those kids who was forced to be there.

Now hold on. Did that make me holier than everyone else there? No, obviously not. I didn’t choose to be there because I wanted to get closer to God. I chose to be there because I wanted to get closer to God’s creation – mostly, a particular section of God’s creation… girls.

At first, youth group was a social thing for me. There were hilarious games where other people embarrassed themselves for my enjoyment, they had free food, and tons of people I could talk to. I had a crush on a girl who went, so I was there every Sunday.

I’m being honest with you about this so you know where I’m coming from. We’re not perfect and we don’t all go to church every week just because we love God so much. Sometimes, there are other reasons, too. The thing is, we need to be honest with ourselves about it.

Because guess what? Those reasons tend to fade away. It didn’t work out with the girl I went to church for – I can imagine your surprise. Plus, eventually, it was me in those embarrassing games. And let’s be real, pizza gets old after a while.

The one thing in this world that has no end is God and His love for us. Other things may make us temporarily happy, but true joy comes from having a relationship with God. We have to want this relationship, but even wanting it isn’t enough. This relationship takes a lot of work.

It’s this pursuit that needs to drive us to go to Life Teen. It has to be His love and His grace drawing us there every week to meet Him, to learn more about Him, and to grow in a community that is seeking after Him.

If we do this, small changes won’t make us stop going. If we really love the youth minister and then they leave, do we just find something else to do? If the youth group person we were dating breaks it off, do we avoid church to avoid seeing them? See, if our purpose for going to youth group never goes beyond those small reasons, we might just walk away.

However, if we are going so we can encounter Jesus, we can stick it out through those bumps in the road. The reasons I started going to youth group might have faded, but the reason I stayed never did: I was encountering Jesus every week. In scripture, in worship, in a talk, in a sacrament, in a CORE member, in a friend. I didn’t even realize it at first, but I was actually getting to know this Jesus guy, and I thought He was really cool. After a while, I decided I wanted Him to be a small part of my life. Then, I decided I wanted Him to be a big part of my life. In fact, I have to make that decision again each day. Going to Life Teen helped prepare me for a lifetime of trying to make that decision daily.

My youth group did experience changes. We switched rooms. We switched retreat centers. Some of my favorite CORE members moved on to other ministries. There was relationship drama. Friends left. Some nights were more fun than others.

What never changed is that it was a place I could encounter Jesus. That was the main reason I kept going, and I’m glad I did. Now I get paid to go to Life Nights as a youth minister – but being paid still isn’t the reason I go. I go because I love seeing young people encounter Jesus, and I learn more about Him from every person I get to work with. I’m still tired of the pizza. But God is still good, and He’s still there. His love hasn’t faded, and it never will.

Be God’s.