Church Leadership: What works for our teens in church? What can we do about reaching them?

I saw this posting on the website and I thought it was just plain GREAT!

We continue to miss the mark with young adults and teens in church, and there are a number of reasons why.

Ty, in the article below, clearly articulates why many of the approaches, we think should work, don't work.

I want my grandchildren in the Kingdom period! If I have to change my approach to reach them, so be it. 

I just CANNOT and WILL NOT change the message. That position is non-negotiable and non-adjustable.

How do you feel about what Ty has to say?

Are you offended or motivated? Do you think he is right?

Tell us what you think after your read his plea.

In Him,
JMb <><

A Teenager’s Plea: Don’t Suck

by Ty Buckingham

There are some things that just get to me.

When I leave the Taco Bell drive through knowing, without even looking into the bag, that they have messed up my order.

I certainly don’t like it when I end up shaking hands and it was supposed to be a fist bump. That’s just awkward.

Those are little.

What seriously gets to me is when there is a lack in how the church talks to us. Especially as a teenager in high school, I couldn’t feel more neglected by the church at times.


I would walk into a service, and I would feel like I didn’t belong. The flag people weren’t even the biggest problem, it was the fact that the clip art used for announcement slides, the sermons had no branding, just some nice title like, “Giving the Givers’ Gift” in Arial (Helvetica’s ugly cousin). Really creative. Nothing was talking to me.

We (teens) are a group who want to belong. When we step into a church, the first thing that should happen is feeling targeted and having a genuine experience:


It’s one thing to tell us we’re important, it’s another thing to show us. We can tell when you spend two minutes or two hours on an event flyer. Or if the design was by your secretary or by a real communicator/designer.

Side note:

Everything matters: the colors you use, the layers you put on each other, the graphics you use or don’t use, and the way you give it to us. We can quickly tell how much you want us, by how hard you try.

If we don’t feel targeted, you lose us.


I want to be able to go into a church and have a serious experience with God. Once you’ve targeted me into coming, I have to experience something in order to both be impacted and to have that compelling reason to return.

Everyone has an experience, it’s the churches’ goal to see that experience is a great one.

There have been some things that work:

When church logos have deeper meaning than just a picture.

The times when churches go all out on events, they hand out illustrations, give you an experience; for example I saw a picture of a youth group that not only did a “Game Day” theme but they put fake turf on the ground put up stage lights. It looked like the real deal.

When I’m not handed a bulletin but an illustration such as a movie ticket, 3D glasses, or anything someone can hold, and hold on to as a remembrance of what happened. I can tell you took it seriously so I take it seriously.

When I walk in church, there’s no seats, and you just worship the whole time.

Straight up, when you do church differently.

Side notes:

Events are good, relationships are better. Anyone can have a concert, a blow up bounce house and free pizza. To be able to within that hour and a half service feel like I made friends, then you’ve got me. I’ve taken the bait.

OK, yes, I am the son of Michael Buckingham of Holy Cow Creative, so sure there are some biases, but you must understand me and my friends constantly got things in the mail that sucked and didn’t do the job well 

(by the way, we don’t read your emails or your postcards—send personal text messages).

So please, on behalf of all teenagers, go get em’.

“Go after them. Get them back and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God.” -James 5:20James 5:20
English: World English Bible - WEB

20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins.

WP-Bible plugin


Ok, your turn! Tell us what you think after your read his plea?


Although we should speak language that all generations can understand, we ought not cater to only one, specific generation. If a church isn't "being real" with teens, they are likely not being real at all, & all generations sitting in the pews will feel the same. At the same time we cannot tailor our style to suit only one generation of the congregation. Though there might be legitimate complaints, some -- like those about the style of font used & the colors on the graphics -- seem like the whining of an "adulterous generation that seeks after a sign." If they are dissatisfied with the colors of the ink, will they be satisfied with the meat of the Word that convicts them of their sin? Let's not forget that the primary mission of the Church is "to preach the Gospel to every creature" and to "teach them all things" that Jesus taught His disciples, with the goal of seeing any individual (not necessarily entire generations, though that would be great : ) ) "who has ears to hear," repent of their sins & come to saving faith in Jesus.

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