Teenage Disciples

This past week Dan Jarvis, lead pastor of Weymouth Community Church, wrote this as his Facebook status:

Would it totally mess up your faith to realize the disciples were teenagers when they walked with Jesus?

After reading this status and seeing some positive (and negative) feedback I wanted to see if this was true for myself. In Exodus 30:14-15 it says that every Jewish man over the age of 20 had to pay a temple tax. With that in mind, if you go to Matthew 17:24-27 you read about a time when Jesus and His disciples went to a temple and only Jesus and Peter had to pay the temple tax. So we can assume that the other disciples did not have to pay the temple tax because they were under the age of 20. What does this mean? The disciples were teenagers! So often we don’t give enough credit to teens and say they are just rebellious trouble makers. We need to realize Jesus decided to invest His life into a group of teenagers who flipped their world upset down for Jesus. With that in mind, I want to share with you a blog post Greg Stier posted on his website a few days ago. He shared some thoughts on why we should focus on teenagers.

There’s a certain level of patronization that happens to those who work with teenagers. Youth leaders will hear things like “When are you going to become a real pastor?” (As if being a youth leader was some kind of second class ministry position) or “It’s good you are working with teens because, after all, they are the church of tomorrow” (making the bad assumption that teens can’t do anything of spiritual significance today.) As the leader of a ministry focused on teenagers I get sick of hearing these kinds of pronouncements.

I was a church planter and preaching pastor for ten years at a thriving church. We started with 23 people and grew to 1,200 when I resigned having 62% of our congregation who trusted in Jesus as their Savior through our direct ministry efforts. It was a great and growing church. And I left it all to pursue reaching teenagers for Christ. Here’s why:

1. Teenagers are a more open audience than adults.

We have all heard the statistic that 85% of those who come to Christ do so by the time they are eighteen years of age. If this statistic is even mostly accurate then it has tremendous ministry implications. If you were in sales and knew that the demographic most likely to purchase your product were 18 years of age or younger you would put the vast majority of your marketing money into reaching that age group. But that’s exactly opposite of what the typical church does.

The average church puts the vast majority of its budget into building programs and other programs that cater to the needs of the adults. If there are outreaches they usually come in the form of expensive Easter/Christmas programs that no unreached teenager I’ve met would have a desire to attend. Maybe it’s because adults “tithe” or can serve on a committee but churches are missing the mark when it comes to hitting the most spiritually open demographic…young people.

If our “currency” in ministry is souls and our “sales” is evangelism then why wouldn’t we “cash in” on the audience most likely to say “YES” to Jesus? Forgive the crass analogy (evangelism is not sales) but it just doesn’t make sense to me why the church doesn’t focus more on teenagers.

I was once asked by a well-known ministry leader why I focused on reaching teenagers when I could have a more appreciative audience by focusing on adults. I told him, “When you work with adults you need a jack hammer and a wheel barrow. You use the jack hammer to break up the concrete first (the hardened ideologies) and then wheel barrow out all the broken pieces before you can pour the wet cement. Working with teenagers I just get to pour the wet cement.”

2. Teenagers are a more strategic audience than adults.

Teenagers can take the gospel further faster than adults. The average teenager has tons of online and face to face friends and, according to one study by NPR, the average teenager has 100x’s more influence on their friends than a stranger does. If teenagers can be inspired, trained and unleashed to strategically and lovingly leverage this influence for Jesus the kingdom of God could exponentially accelerate in our nation through the young souls that are reached by young souls.

Jesus took a group of mostly teenaged disciples, trained them over three years and unleashed them to shake the world. He could do the same thing today. But we must stop looking at teenagers as pests or pariahs and see them through the eyes of potential. If we want to be strategic in reaching the world for Christ we must start with young people.

3. Teenagers are a more “un” audience than adults.

“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-29

God loves to use the unlikely and underestimated to do the unimaginable. There are no more “un ones” than teenagers. And God wants to use them, not later, but now to advance his kingdom.

How can you get started unleashing teenagers (your kids, your kids friends, your friends’ kids, the teens in the youth group at your church, etc)? Why not start praying for them and get them to join the cause of Christ.

Let’s stop patronizing teenagers and let’s start mobilizing them for the greater glory of God and salvation of humanity. What say you?

I would recommend a book called Do Hard Things for anyone who think teens cannot do great things for Christ. I would also recommend this book to teens who want to be motivated to make a difference in their world for Christ. Click here to order a copy for a great price from Amazon.

Published by Austin McCann

Austin is the student ministries director at Redemption Chapel in Stow, OH. He has a BA from Piedmont International University and a Master of Arts in Religion with a Christian leadership focus from Liberty University School of Divinity. Austin enjoys reading, writing, playing basketball and golf, and spending time with his family.

Join the Conversation


    1. Thanks for taking the time to read and leave a comment! I’m thankful God called you not youth ministry because you have made an impact in my life through it over the years. Thanks for all you continue to do for me!


  1. Yes!!! 🙂 Thanks for posting this Austin! Personally, I think that if God does bring the revival we are praying for, He is going to use “teenagers”, and even younger kids…

    After commenting on Dan’s status the other day, I had to write more too. It’s on FB if you’re interested. Anyhow, I soo appreciate your vision/passion for teenagers! God will use you!

    1. Thanks Melody for taking the time to read this post and leaving a comment. Teenagers today have resources that generations before them never had. Because of those resources and their youthfulness God very well could use them to usher in another revival like you said!

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