September is like the January of the church calendar. Everything begins in a new way: new youth are introduced into the group, events begin again in a regular way, Sunday School resumes after the Summer break, and people seem ready to engage a regular routine again. Often those first few events in September are key to integrating new youth whether they are moving up from younger grades, are new to the church or are checking out youth group for the first time.
Youth Ministry Spotlight's blog
Nothing we do in ministry with youth happens in a vacuum. We can listen, support and create space for youth to encounter God thinking that we are influencing the lives of youth. Ultimately our time with junior youth and youth is a short span of four or possibly six years of their lives. Parents, grandparents and guardians carry the most significant influence on the beliefs and spiritual lives of teens even though it may not feel like it at times.
The summer months are considered a break for many regular youth ministry events yet nurturing and formation is still happening in other ways. Some churches run their own day camp were youth are invited to test their skills and experiment taking on leadership roles. At camp, being attentive to God’s creation as well as relationships that develop with peers, nurtures an atmosphere of belonging and being open to God’s leading.
Learning and service trips are wonderful opportunities to bond with youth and have those participating bond with each other. There is nothing like a shared experience of giving one’s time and energy to others to reduce uncomfortable social interactions within the group. girl fixing sink plumbingIt is helpful to prepare your group well before the trip so they are emotionally and spiritually prepared for what they will or could encounter.
The period of adolescence has sometimes been described as a storm. The perfect conditions somehow align to create explosive episodes that can be triggered by the smallest action or slightest word. Where does all this rage come from? The stress of so much change and struggle can sometimes be directed at those they feel the closest to or people who are more vulnerable then themselves. The storm can happen at anytime or in any place. What do we do when we encounter the anger and frustration of a youth? How do we handle the storm? Find opportunities to unpack the issue and open up what is triggering the passionate reaction.
Investing in intentional, unconditional relationships with youth, walking with them towards a fearless faith in Christ Jesus. This is the statement that will guide our year of discernment. We believe that just as Christ has been central to all we have done in the past, Christ will continue to accompany us and the Holy Spirit guide us and give us wisdom.
Like any of us, youth also need to experience worshipping God that goes beyond Sunday morning. How are we inviting youth to take time to worship God in all parts of their lives? Discerning together with youth what is important for our worship and critically thinking through why we do what we do, will help everyone involved to understand what connects us to God in ways that feed our souls.
Working with youth, children and families takes an energy that can be both empowering and exhausting. Youth ministry as a spiritual discipline captures the all-encompassing authenticity that working with youth requires. To be oneself, to share selflessly, to share deeply from one’s own faith and relationship with God, and to be available for youth and families in crisis, costs us part of ourselves.
We've all been there when a parent is delayed picking up their youth or asks us to drop a youth off on our way home. No one hesitated before but we do now. We do a mental check so as not to put the youth in a vulnerable position or ourselves. To appease safe church policies we may say “no” more often or spend more energy making sure a youth is not alone with a adult outside of a public space.
Many of the youth we connect with are silently struggling with challenges that they feel helpless to face. How do we as churches support and walk alongside youth who may not yet understand the nature of the struggles they are experiencing? What kind of image of God are we presenting? Does it stand in the way of facing challenges and getting the support that is needed? Creating safe spaces to talk about the pressures of being a young person in our world can be a gift of the church.