Youth Ministry Spotlight

youth holding out Bible 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.

Bible study 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.

Bible study 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.

girl on phone We assume that youth like to hang out in groups and that a group of youth are automatically a community. If you look more closely you might actually see smaller relational groupings that don’t necessarily know how to interact with other youth. Building community within a youth group takes work and it doesn’t happen automatically. In our current postmodern climate, with the deconstruction of so many pieces of our church culture, community is one of those elements that should be recovered and reinvented in new ways. Youth are surrounded by broken relationships, divorce, separation and short-term relationships. What they need from the church are experiences of being in community amidst differences of opinions, theology, personalities and preferences.

girl on phone We all practice our faith within a specific culture of shared values, lifestyles and routines that are unique to our time period or age grouping. This culture that we find ourselves in influences how we understand God and how we live out our faith in very real ways. As we look to supporting and connecting with youth we need to understand the culture they navigate everyday. We do this not to control the lives of our youth or to be like them but to foster understanding, compassion and appropriate responses of pastoral care.

potter and clay There is no doubt that life around us is changing. As the church shifts to being a minority voice in our culture, we can feel like we are losing influence when it comes to the spiritual life of families and young people. When faced with so much uncertainty, we are tempted to hide in familiarity and look for security in doing church and youth ministry the same way we have always done it. Unrest and uncertainty can be an opportunity and an invitation into a season of discerning, exploring and creating. This is an exciting time to be engaging in dreaming what youth ministry and church could be like.

woman wonderingWhen I was asked to be a youth sponsor, I was surprised. Why would they want me? When we think of involving adults in our ministry with youth we traditionally think of the model of sponsors. What if you are having difficulty finding adults within the church to commit to this kind of community building with the youth? It might be time to get creative.

hand holding the future Ministry focused solely on adolescents is relatively new to the history of the church. When we look at what we do with youth as ministry instead of programing, it frees us to see all the different ways we can integrate youth into the life of the church. When we shift from viewing youth as consumers of what we think they should be getting to participants in ministry where they creatively engage in their own church and community, wonderful things can happen.


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