A road map for churches and their youth groups - revised
by Janice S Ramkissoon 4/08/2007 / Teen Issues
- 7 points for leaders and members to consider -
Our young people have lost faith in the church. Their get-out-clause is their teenage years. Soon we are visiting our young people in prison; passing them on the street, high on drugs or prostituting. We watch them hanging out on street corners in gangs, then cry at their funerals when events of the street take their lives. They take on the responsibilities of parenting at an age when they should be enjoying their youth. From imprisonment to cultish lifestyles, we are losing our youth and more and more are becoming confused and living a less than fulfilled life, as promised to us by God.
How can we as a church reach and reclaim our youth? What are our responsibilities to those tiny tots in our Sunday schools who need continued guidance when they reach their teen years?
My heart aches, to see our youth so lost and confused while we sit back, shake our heads in disgust at their actions and then do nothing.
If your church is struggling with this issue, I pray that some of the points below will help you in providing a forum for the youth in your church and community:
1. Invest in the young ones. They are the future. If you've been praying for growth and deliverance, part of the answer is vested in some of these youth (whether the ones you see in front of you today or the ones that will walk through those swinging doors one day). If you don't invest in them now, you as a church will never see the returns.
2. Have a prayer session dedicated to the restoration and/ or continuation of the youth fellowship. The youth group is part of the church's ministry and is just as important as any other part of the body of the church, so special care and attention is needed. Prayer can bridge any gap within a relationship and bridging the gap between the youth and their elders is vital to the growth of the church.
3. Get to know your young people individually, so that you know and can care for their individual needs. That way you can tailor the lessons so that everyone benefits and not just one or two out of the youth in the group. Teenagers like it when you speak their language, they feel included and apart of... Otherwise, boredom and lack of interest will be their reality. Visit Youth sites like teenlifeministries.com; youthforChrist.com and subscribe to youth magazines and newsletters for ideas.
4. Provide/Use Alternative Teaching Methods. Take them away from the confines of the church building. Young people are energetic and need space to release such energy. Use the facilities of other organisations that specialises in youth activities. Use the outdoors: sport activities in the park, recreation centres and the church grounds (if applicable). Enjoy the beauty of God's creation.
5. Give volunteers the support they need it is part of the youth investment. Praying for volunteers should not be where the support ends. They need physical assistance. Too often we assume that they are ok and are doing just fine - only to find out, when it's too late, that they are burnt-out and de-motivated. The best of us can get that way and we don't always let the elders know exactly how we are feeling because we don't want to be seen as complainers.
6. Recruiting Additional Volunteers can sometimes be a stressful and frustrating task so many angles can be taken and it also depends on the church's direction where mission is concerned. There are many websites like Christiannet.net that provides helpful material in the various approaches you can take. You should also give them assurance that they will get the support they need (including the provision of resources needed to carry out the programme).
7. The Two-Way Process: Both elders and volunteers will need to air their views and contribute to the process being successful. Volunteers will come and go, as the past have taught us, but the process will continue if the church is actively involved. It is the responsibility of the church to look after its young. That will give continuity for the youth. They need a 'safe haven' and if it's not provided in the church they will find it elsewhere.
Copyright J. S. Ramkissoon 2007
First published as a five point article for FaithWriters in 2005
Edited and Reprinted as a 7 point article 2007
Janice, a freelance writer, lives in the UK and enjoys spending time with her husband, Vince and their son, Javin. She uses her gift to encourage others towards a deeper relationship with God, through her inspirational pieces while her travel articles provide general advice for the holiday-maker.