Why Youth Groups Aren’t Working

Letters to the Editor: Yes, young people care. Here’s how to make them vote too

A few years ago, my wife, Ann, started a youth group at her church. And now, two years after its start, it’s thriving. The kids involved are from both generations. The older ones, mostly 20-somethings, are mostly girls, and the youngest are 12- and 13-year-olds.

Although the program involves a lot of work with the adults, it’s still very much a mom-and-pop effort. That’s not to slight the adults’ efforts: They put in a lot of work to make it happen. But it takes two generations to make or break a youth group.

The group is not a new idea: Youth ministry in the United States is something our nation has been doing since the 1950s. But that’s not the entire problem, of course: We need youth to vote. That’s why we need young people to start voting, to participate in the political process.

That’s why young people should be at the polls, not just to register and vote but to vote and get out there and push candidates who best represent them. And that’s what young people have shown to be capable of—and to be doing—since the 1980s.

That’s how you build an engaged citizenry.

And all you need to do it is bring young people into the political process.

In one of the more interesting polls ever conducted, we found that young people strongly prefer candidates who embrace the same issues they do. So, yes, young people care about issues.

They just aren’t making it easy.

In his book, Democracy Incorporated, the conservative author David Brooks points out that young people’s opinions only begin to show up in polling until the age of 25, when they enter the electorate, which is why so many older people can seem to be voting against their best interests.

And that’s why in the last two general elections, when it mattered, young people didn’t show up.


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