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.
Youth Ministry Spotlight's blog
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.
As we work with and support youth it is helpful to be sensitive to the adolescent developmental tasks of being, belonging, behaving and believing. How do you decide when a youth is testing the water or is exhibiting behaviour that should be flagged as being at risk or in need of more support? How do you support youth while still moving the rest of the youth group along in their development? When do you go for help and where?
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?
There isn’t a perfect model of youth ministry that will work in every church. Churches need to do the hard work of examining their gifts and move toward being intentional about their ministry with youth that meets the needs of youth but also forms and shapes their spiritual growth. Create spaces and experiences for youth to experiment with, participate in, and interact with. This will foster a sense of community as well and creating these spaces may mean that we will lead things that encourage us to step outside of our comfort zone or educate ourselves on something we are not familiar with.
We find in Jesus both a model and purpose for giving leadership to children, youth and young adults of the church. We look to the Bible for stories of leadership done well as well as leadership falling short of its desire of faithfulness to God. How does Jesus give meaning to your ministry with youth? How do you try to model your ministry after Jesus?
It is so easy to be focused on our small piece of the world that we interact with everyday. We can live our whole lives without awareness of what we have in common with people around the world. Youth entrusted to our care are doing the important developmental work of discovering that they are not the centre of the universe. What seems like an obvious thing to learn is actually a very important and challenging distinction to make for developing a healthy sense of self in relation to others. Discovering other cultures and faiths and nurturing connections with diverse people encourages youth to embrace the call of Jesus to respect each person as a child of God.