Why Reach Teenagers?

When is the best time to reach a person for Jesus?

This is a tricky question.

Because of God’s great love for every person, He wants everyone to turn to Him and receive new life from Him (2 Peter 3:9). The need for that good news is always urgent. So it is safe to say that anytime is the best time and that’s true! The best opportunity to meet a need with the gospel could be found in the next person we meet.

However, is there a time of life when the gospel could potentially make a deeper and greater impact? A strategic time when people are commonly more open to the message of Jesus?

In Cru, we think the teenage years of a person’s life may be one of the best times to share the gospel with them.

Asking the Big Questions

There is no doubt that teens are unique, and we believe God intended for them to be this way. One of those special designs has to do with the changes in the teenage brain. Studies of human development during these years have made some amazing discoveries.

  • “Scientific evidence is showing that the brain systems involved in decision-making, planning, social understanding, and risk-taking are developing in adolescence.” – Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, Sarah-Jayne Blakemore.
  • The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry states that individuals age 12-15 are beginning to struggle with a sense of identity, look for role models, and understand the potential consequences of future behaviors.
  • Individuals age 16-20 develop even further to consider the importance placed on one’s role in life and an increased concern for the future and life beyond high school according to the AACAP

If God has designed a time when a person would wake up and start to ask questions about life, identity, value, and purpose, we ought to be there in that moment with the gospel. This moment and these questions are signs of readiness for the gospel. Teenagers are ready!

If God has designed a time when a person would wake up and start to ask questions about life, identity, value, and purpose, we ought to be there in that moment with the gospel.

High-Risk Choices

Unfortunately, a teenager’s desire to discover purpose, value, worth and fulfillment in life often starts without God. Teenagers commonly make choices for their lives that are high-risk.

In fact, if you did a quick internet search for “youth risk survey,” your results would be jam-packed with information and data that could lead you to see teenagers as rebellious, wild, and out of control.

Here is a quick look at some CDC statistics for drug and sexual activity among high school students.

  • 185% increase in sexual activity from 9th grade to 12th grade
  • 350% increase of teens who had four or more sexual partners from 9th grade to 12th grade
  • 140% increase in ecstasy use from 9th grade to 12th grade

There is no other age group that sees such a drastic increase in drug use, sexual activity, and alcohol abuse than teenagers. These numbers have not seemed to go down over the years. If anything, they have increased.

It can be tempting to throw our hands up and put labels on teens, but these behaviors are symptoms. We believe the questions teens are asking drive them to high-risk behaviors. They are looking for answers. They’re just looking in all the wrong places.

The behaviors are a problem to be sure, but we have to treat the disease, not just the symptoms. The real answer to their questions of meaning and purpose is found in a relationship with God. It’s important to remember that their choices don’t mean they’re an enemy–it means they’re lost, like sheep who have no shepherd.

Why do we go to the local high schools? Because that is where all the teenagers are…

Lasting, Lifelong Impact

Teenagers are eager to discover who they are. The choices they make now will leave a lasting impact on the rest of their life. Unfortunately, there is a long, tempting list of sins that the world offers as a way to provide meaning for life and self-worth (I John 2:16-17, Ephesians 2:1-3, John 10:10). 

When someone takes what the world has to offer, two things happen. First, the life the world offers quickly fades and leaves suffering and emptiness (Luke 15:11-16). The second, however, takes place on a longer timeline and is far worse. 

Have you ever read the phrase “hard heart” in the Bible? This phrase describes someone who repeatedly chooses to reject God’s truth and instead decides to live out their own truth. God will let a person live this way (Romans 1:18-24). So “hard heart” is a word picture of what happens when you reject God to the point that His message no longer sinks in because your heart has become like a hard stone.

This passage in Ephesians 4 helps us to clearly see this.

With the Lord’s authority, I say this: live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity. Ephesians 4:17-19

Throughout the Bible, God has shown us that when someone chooses to live life without Him, their heart will slowly harden.

At first, they may push God away intentionally and choose to trust other things. Eventually, though, they begin to just reject God without even thinking about it. They become unresponsive to God’s truth like a blind person would be toward the light (Acts 28:23-28).

Teenagers are dying to find out what makes life worth living! If we hesitate to take the gospel to them, their hearts grow hard. When they try to find lasting meaning in the world, a life of sin, and rebellion against God, their heart grows steadily harder with each passing year.

Now, this does not mean all hope is lost. God can always do amazing things that will change the course of a person’s life! Remember what God does with Saul, soon to be Paul, in Acts 9:1-19.

Many times, God uses the consequences of a person’s rebellion to show them how meaningless life is apart from Him. We call this coming to Jesus “the hard way.” This may mean years of pain, emptiness, and deeply ingrained habits that this person will have to carry with them.

When people come to Jesus this way, they will often say, “I just wasted so much time chasing the wrong things.”

We can take this to heart and take steps of faith to share the gospel with young people. Choosing to follow Jesus as a teenager means that a person can spend more years growing closer to God rather than distancing from Him.

Another thing we think a lot about in Cru is going to the students. We want to go where teenagers are and be there with the gospel in their world.

If we hesitate to take the gospel to teenagers, their hearts grow hard.

Reaching Everyone

If you wanted to reach everyone with the gospel in any given city, where would you go? Is there a place where everyone goes?

Almost the entire population goes through middle schools and high schools at some point. Reaching those campuses is one of the most strategic things we can do.

In Cru, we want to give everyone a chance to know someone who truly follows Jesus. This is our plan. We go to the local middle or high school and take steps of faith to serve and share the gospel with teenagers.

Why do we go to the local schools? Because that is where all the teenagers are! They are asking the questions, and we believe Jesus has the best answers. They are hurting, and we believe that we can help.

The best time to share the gospel with someone is during their teenage years.

Next Step

Find out if there is a Cru ministry reaching teens near you, and consider how you can invest in reaching teens with us.

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Cru Promo Videos

It was once said that “A picture is worth a thousand words”. Well, if that’s true, a video is worth a million. As we talk about Cru with students, administration, donors, volunteers, parents, and others, having a video can sometimes help them get the feel of what we do.

Below you’ll find a few videos that do just that. And if you don’t find what you’re looking for, check our YouTube channels at Cru High School and Gotothecampus. If we’ve got it, it’ll be there.

Cru Promo Video – 3 Minute Version

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Cru Promo Video – 1 Minute Version

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Cru Promo Video – 1 Minute Version (vertical)

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