by Jean Lehn Epp, Interim Coordinator of Youth Ministry Resources - We are meant to guide youth along the way and create experiences that help youth to encounter God. When our ministry with youth is in healthy space, we are mentors and models of what it is to follow Jesus in all our successes and setbacks, challenges and special God moments. In our calling to be mentors and models we need to be paying attention to our own relationship with God. How can we invite youth to go where we have not been? A healthy youth ministry focuses on being God oriented when it centres on building up teens’ relationships with God. Your leadership at its best can work at pointing others toward God. For mentoring and modeling to happen, leaders of youth need to commit to longer periods of time if there is any hope for lasting impact on the lives of youth.
Building a healthy youth ministry is also about educating and encouraging the church to explore new ways to mentor and model youth.
How is your leadership getting in the way of youth encountering God? How are you helping the youth build practices that nurture their relationship with God? How are you empowering youth to be the presence of God to others?
Building a healthy youth ministry in your church setting is going to take time, a listening ear, careful consultation, wise discernment and the engagement of the whole community. You can’t and shouldn’t do this on your own. Without the support of the church community, nothing you do will solidify a connection to the larger community of faith. In isolation, those working with youth will be in danger of burning out of energy and the ability to have an impact. Building a healthy youth ministry is also about educating and encouraging the church to explore new ways to mentor and model youth. How can the church invite youth to go where they themselves have not gone?
- Build spiritual practices with the whole congregation that invite people to reflect on their own journey with God and invite them to go deeper. Try some new prayer styles or practices during Lent.
- Invite youth into a season of reflection or try a new way to pray for a month or two. It may seem difficult at first but trying something for a while helps youth get into a rhythm. Build into your rhythm some time to talk about how it feels to start a new way of praying and what it feels like after you have been doing it for a while. How has their relationship with God changed? How has it changed who they are?
- Read the story of Mary in Luke 1:26-38. Focus on Mary’s words, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Like Mary, how have you said “yes” to being a servant who helps share God with others?
How do you encourage youth to embrace sharing God with others?
- Kenda Creasy Dean and Ron Foster have come together to write, The Godbearing Life: The Art of Soul Tending for Youth Ministry. This is an amazing book about youth ministry that encourages us to see ministry with youth as a spiritual discipline. They call us to go deeper into our relationship with God and to invite youth to do so as well. Youth ministry is as much about us as leaders as it is about empowering youth to share their relationship with God with others.
- Expanding the meaning of family and creating connections with young people is an important part of sharing our faith with all generations. Jennifer Guerra Aldana shares her insights on building connections and a sense of belonging across the generations.
- Tony Jones has put together insights into igniting prayer practices with youth in Soul Shaper: Exploring Spirituality and Contemplative Practices in Youth Ministry. This practical resource will support your desire to create meaningful practices that help youth encounter God in very real ways.