Young people need community. Growing up involved in a youth group, and now as a youth pastor, I, Josh, am convinced more then ever we can’t do this life alone, especially as young people. What I think gets underestimated is the role of parents in all of this. And as simple as that sounds, the more I observe and help lead young people, the more I discover how uninvolved some parents are in their teens social lives.

Personally, my parents encouraged (sometimes insisting when I didn’t feel like it) me to be in community. They were in constant communication with me regarding who I was spending time with. They met my friend’s parents, they had my friends over to the house, and they expected me to attend youth group. This really helped me find a community environment that was inspiring and encouraged me make good choices.

I’m tired of seeing young people get involved in the wrong crowd. The cycle seems to be this: they give into peer pressure, unwilling to stand up for themselves, and end up feeling shame and regret. Or even worse, they don’t have friends that are willing to stick up for them and encourage them in the right direction.

If your young person attends a good community group they are more likely to create friendships in that community. If your community group offers small group meetings during the week, even better! This is where the magic happens. This is the place where I forged lifelong friendships; the kind of friends I could call when all hell broke loose. The kind of friends that encouraged the dreams I had for my life. The kind of friends I could trust to keep me accountable.

Young people need community, the right kind of community. If parents aren’t involved in this process, kids will find a group on their own. Unfortunately, a lot of those friendships can end badly.  Or worse, they don’t find a group at all. This is where I meet the loneliest and most depressed young people. They crave genuine relationships and acceptance.

I will finish with a quick story about a young man named Sean Robertson. At any early age, Sean got involved with the wrong crowd and began using drugs. Things got out of control quickly. Thankfully, Sean’s parents were committed to seeing him make good friends. What is important to note here is they insisted that if he lived under their roof, he was going to be a part of a uplifting community. And this is how I met Sean two years ago. Sean attended our summer camp and had an amazing experience. It was there Sean reflected on his life and his “friends.”

I still have the letters that Sean wrote, explaining how thankful he was to have new, positive friends that treated him with respect. Sean is still on a journey, but he but knows more than ever he cant “make it” without the right people in his life. His biggest struggle is keeping healthy boundaries with those old toxic relationships. He’s learning to grow and become stronger through his genuine relationships.  Sean mentioned something alarming to me about a month ago. He said some of the guys he knew at rehab are doing worse now than when they started rehab. I asked Sean why he thought this happened and he simply stated, “It’s not possible without the right people in your life.”

If I can encourage any parents out there, your children are full of purpose. No matter how good or bad they might be right now, get them connected into a positive local community group. Get them surrounded with young people that will help push them forward. We need community, the right kind of community.

Pastor Josh Kelly and his wife Brooke lead the movement “Royal Youth” as part of Wave Church located in Virginia Beach, VA.  Josh and his incredible team have worked to create a place for young people to meet new friends, feel accepted and be challenged to live their lives to their fullest potential. The youth of Royal are working to promote positivity and purpose in their generation.