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.
Youth Ministry Spotlight's blog
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.
Sometimes we find ourselves going in circles as we face the same challenges again and again yet are not really sure what to try next. Previous models of connecting with youth don’t seem to hold the same impact. Youth ministry is about creating space where youth can encounter God, others and themselves. How we do this will be similar and different for each place of ministry. Youth ministry is a very short but significant period of time when each youth is forming and shaping a spiritual connection with God that will set them up for a life long relationship.
In this climate of waning support for religious institutions and the declining demographic of teens participating in church life, many of us wonder about the relevance of the church. Where do youth fit into the life of your church? Transparency and creating space that allows youth to ask questions during times of challenge can go a long way toward assuring youth that they are valued and loved.
The story of God at work in our lives becomes real and embodied through wrestling with the scripture together, as well as in our worship, rituals, songs and prayers. Engaging the Bible in intentional, unapologetic and creative ways will help the Bible to be a dynamic story.
In this age of overwhelming information we often think our youth know God. Afterall, what have years of Sunday School been for? Do they really know God? When teaching Sunday School or leading exploring faith discussions, I continually invite youth to respond from where they are at with the phrase, “don’t give me the Sunday School answer.” The “Sunday School answer” isn’t inaccurate or incorrect. I am searching for responses that come from their own understanding. Youth may know many of the Bible stories and know about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit yet knowledge and belief are very different things.