I am very thankful for the great youth group that our church had when I was a teenager. It wasn’t perfect, but it was great.
However, from what I have seen our own kids experience, youth groups are not all like that.
The problem of feeling lonely at the church youth group can be not only painful, but hard to understand.
Although I’m sure there are still some great church youth groups out there somewhere, I don’t think this loneliness is a rare thing.
(Just in case you’re wondering, I’m not saying that church youth groups are inherently wrong. But I am saying there is something very wrong with many church youth groups.)
So what do you do if you’re feeling lonely at the church youth group?
Well, first, I want to clarify what I mean by “loneliness,” and what I don’t mean.
Not Just a “Lonely in a Crowd” Feeling
It’s possible to feel lonely in a crowd for various reasons. Maybe you don’t know anyone yet. Or maybe everyone is talking to each other, but not to you. Or maybe you’re kind of self-conscious and find it hard to start a conversation.
These reasons for feeling lonely in a crowd could be temporary, or something that you could work on fixing. You could try to find one person and show an interest in getting to know them. It might take a while, but usually not an extremely long time.
But this type of loneliness is not what I’m talking about.
Here’s What I’m Talking About
When you feel very unpopular in a church youth group because the group as a whole has a different view of “popular” than you do, you feel very lonely.
That’s what I’m talking about.
If you’re going to the church youth group, thinking it’s a group of young people who love God, His Word, and each other, but you find out they don’t (or at least very little), you’ll probably feel pushed off to the fringe.
Unpopular. Ostracized. Lonely. And trying to figure out why.
That’s what I’m talking about.
And, No, I’m Not Kidding
When I’m listening to my kids explaining how they feel and what it’s like, I wish I had a dime for every time I’ve asked them if that’s seriously the way it is. They explain more. And that’s seriously the way it is.
I don’t even like to write this. I wish there was no such situation as this. But I’ve heard it so many times in so many ways.
As hard as it is, on many levels, I am at least thankful to have kids who talk to me. Just before bedtime is often a special time of mother/daughters heart-to-heart.
So, no, I’m not kidding.
I finally asked what is popular in the church youth group and what is unpopular. I needed some clarification.
Here it is …
What is Popular
In the particular church youth group that we are most familiar with at this time, you’re popular if you have a bunch of people flocking around you.
How do you make this happen?
Draw attention to yourself.
Get a couple people to follow after you.
Make these people do what you want them to do.
If anyone is not following you, let them know they’re not popular. And make it uncomfortable for them to do anything other than what you want them to do.
Get more people to follow you by continuing these simple steps.
Congratulations! You’re popular!
What is Unpopular
This is probably an obvious thing, but I’ll say it anyway — It is unpopular to be different from the popular kids. If you’re not like whoever is popular, then you’re not popular.
It is also unpopular to decide not to do what the popular kids say to do. Don’t worry. They’ll let you know if you fall into that category.
There are some things that are a little more subtle in this realm of unpopularity. Things like talking about the Bible or Jesus or prayer. You have to be careful here, if you want to be popular.
At certain times, like when the youth group leader is teaching, it’s probably good to at least pay some attention. Maybe answer a question or something.
But other than formal teaching times, don’t ever refer to a Bible verse. The Bible isn’t as popular as television programs or smoothie flavors.
Don’t offer to pray for anyone. It would probably make them feel uncomfortable, and they won’t want to talk to you.
And it’s perfectly fine to leave Jesus out of your conversation. He’s not real popular anyway.
If another kid around you happens to say something about the Bible or Jesus or prayer, it would be really unpopular (not to mention uncomfortable) to continue such a conversation. It would be better to either not respond at all, or just grunt.
Oh, one other thing. If you think that caring about anyone else’s feelings will make you popular … think again. It’s not that caring will make you unpopular, but it just doesn’t really matter. It’s not in the equation.
Recipe for Loneliness
Here’s how you get to be lonely in this type of church youth group.
Have a heart that desires to follow God.
Have a desire for true friendship, and try to be a real friend.
Don’t try to draw attention to yourself. Listen to others when they’re speaking.
Pray before you eat. Don’t be afraid of being labeled “religious”. Just talk to God like you would if no one else was around.
Don’t follow the popular kids or try to impress them. Don’t jump whenever they say jump.
Have real conversations with adults.
So What Do You Do If You’re Lonely?
I am not going to give you some kind of standard cliche-type answer. But I am wanting to give you the real truth.
Have a reverential fear of God. Be in awe of Him.
At the same time, know that He loves you! Let that sink in.
The God of the universe, the God who made you, loves you more than you could ever imagine.
Because of God’s love, He sent His Son Jesus to die for you. Because of that love, and that sacrifice, you have value. No one can ever devalue you.
In humility, fall at Jesus’ feet and worship Him. He will lift you up. He will give you His joy and peace.
Rest in Him.
Let that be the basis for everything else.
I can’t tell you whether to stay in the youth group or leave it. But if you ask God for wisdom, He’ll give it to you.
Listen to God. And listen to your parents.
Be patient with your parents, too. It may be hard for them to understand what’s really going on. So talk to them. Tell them what it’s like.
You may be just taking one step at a time, and things may become more clear as some time goes by.
We thought at first that our kids could go to the youth group with an attitude of service. In the beginning, I think it was easier for them to be of some encouragement to at least a few other kids.
But then there was a change in leadership of the youth group, and it became more difficult for our kids to serve in any meaningful way. Instead, they were encouraged to “be crazy” like the other kids.
Another change in leadership, and our kids have actually been sought out to help the other youth.
However, because of the fundamental difference in what is valued as popular and what is disdained as unpopular, it does not seem to be even possible right now.
Yes, I know, with God all things are possible. My husband and I have spent hours in prayer together for the youth group. We and our kids have also spent a lot of time trying to figure out what the fundamental problem is, and what to do about it. At the place we’re at right now, we’re going to have to leave it in His hands.
As I have been trying to know how to conclude this article, something came to my heart and mind early this morning. To pray that we would all lay everything on the altar before God. To give everything to Him. Even this article. I could have written about some specific situations in detail. But I won’t do that. I just want to help other people who may be in the same situation, and also try to help people to see what is really wrong with some church youth groups.
Having been reminded of the need to put everything on the altar, I went to the keyboard later in the morning, to play a hymn. I flipped the pages to the next familiar hymn, and guess what it was? “Trust and Obey.” I was surprised when I got to the third verse, because I hadn’t remembered what it said.
“…until all on the altar we lay…”
That’s what we need to do. Lay everything on the altar. God may lead you to stay in the youth group or to leave it. Regardless of whether you’re in the youth group or not, your joy comes from Him.
This joy may not be popular in the youth group, because of an unwillingness on the part of many to surrender everything to God. But for your part, give yourself completely to Him, and know His joy that overflows, His peace that passes understanding, and His love that never fails.
There may still be a certain loneliness, but that’s okay. Jesus shares it with you.