It all boils down to this...Every Christian teen needs a King, a cause and a crew!
Teenagers need a King!
But they don't just need any King. They need the King who knows them best...King Jesus! He was the One who was beaten, crucified and resurrected to rule and reign from his heaven and in the believer's heart!
Because, if it's not him ruling and reigning, it will be something or someone else. The Old and New Testaments call these King Jesus substitutes "idols."
There's a reason the first of The 10 Commandments is "You shall have no other gods before me." God knew that his creation, tainted by sin, would constantly seek to elevate lesser things to the highest place.
Tim Keller nicknames the human heart "an idol factory." He tells us that a typical person takes "good things like a successful career, love, material possessions, even family, and turns them into ultimate things. Our hearts deify them as the center of our lives, because, we think, they can give us significance and security, safety and fulfillment, if we attain them."
For teenagers these idols could be their social media status, the sports they are playing, how they're perceived by others, porn or a million other micro-kings.
But only one King is qualified to sit on the throne of their hearts. He earned the right to rule and reign when he, obedient to the Father, died to purchase their souls with his own blood on the cross. Now, the resurrected King Jesus carries his scepter to the door of their hearts and expects to be let in and take his rightful place.
Jesus put it this way in Revelation 3:20 , "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me." In other words, his Kingship is not a harsh one, but an intimate rule in the hearts of the believer.
Along with this Almighty King come his mighty proclamations. We call these "The Holy Scriptures" or "The Bible." He extends his reign in our hearts through Spirit-fueled obedience to his Word.
Our teenagers are always bowing their knees to someone or something. That someone should be the King of kings and that something should be his Word. Anything less will pulverize their lives and paralyze their souls.
Teenagers need a cause!
Young people are made for mission. They want to change the world so they often just dive into the pool of available causes out there without thinking or blinking. Some chant "stop human trafficking" and others "get serious about climate change" and still others, "save the babies!"
A yearning dissatisfaction bubbles down deep in many youthful souls like a boiling kettle of unrealistic idealism. Instead of turning the temperature down on their hopes to change the world we must turn them up by focusing them on the Gospel as the ultimate cause!
We must show them how the Gospel can be riveted to the chassis of every good cause (feed the hungry both physically and spiritually, stop human trafficking and goselize those impacted by it, take care of our planet as well as the souls of the people on it, etc.) We must help them view making and multiplying disciples (Matthew 28:18-20) as the ultimate cause given to us by King Jesus himself.
Teenagers need a crew!
I was tempted to use the word "community" but, to be honest, that fine word sounds kind of vanilla compared to the word "crew."
As a father of two teens I can tell you this, teenagers need a crew! My teens go to the mall with their crews. They attend youth group as a crew. And they would do (almost) anything for their crew!
Hebrews 10:24,25 speaks to this, "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."
Our teenagers need a crew to spur them on toward love and good deeds (including the "good deed" of sharing the Gospel) and to encourage them when times are tough.
Jesus had a crew. We call them the disciples! This crew reeked holy havoc against the kingdom of darkness as they advanced the kingdom of God!
Actually, the average teenager can have multiple crews (friends, school, youth group, team, etc.) What matters is that all of these crews are focused on King Jesus and his Gospel advancing, disciple making cause.
These three teen necessities (King, Cause, Crew) not only help our teenagers, they clarify and focus youth ministry efforts. They enable youth leaders to keep the main things the main thing. Because, just like idols can take the place of Jesus in the human heart, content can (and often does) replace the Cause of Christ in the typical youth group. Youth leaders are often tempted to carry on an endless cycle of curriculum series instead of equipping their teenagers to carry out the mission Jesus gave every believer.
Let's help our teenagers get back to the basics: Jesus as their King and the Gospel as their cause, all supported by an on-fire, God-loving, sin-loathing, kingdom-advancing crew!
That's what every Christian teen (and adult for that matter) needs!