We are focusing on community this month. Our last post was about the community surrounding the church, but today we are focusing on the community inside the church. Often youth can become their own community, and rarely if ever interact with the large church community. Today we ask the question……
“How do you help youth plug in to the church community?”
Kristin is a native of Danville, Kentucky and a graduate of the University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, and the Louisville Presbyterian Seminary. She resides in Louisville and joined the staff of First Baptist Church in July 2012. Kristin has spent many summers working for Passport, Inc. Kristin is also the Interim Office Manager for the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship and the Communications Assistant for the CBF Youth Ministry Network. Kristin loves spending time with her nephews, Jaxon and Parker.
One of the many joys of youth ministry is being able to get youth involved in the larger church body. It is life giving to watch as they form relationships and build community outside the walls of the youth room. There is a variety of ways to accomplish this task. They all involve finding out strengths of each youth and plugging them into different areas of church life.
An easy way to involve youth with younger students is to have them help with children’s activities. This could include leading vacation Bible school, helping in the nursery and in children Sunday school classes. On the opposite end of the spectrum, youth could be paired with senior adults to get to know them better. Youth and senior adults have a lot to learn from one another. While one can teach the other how to use a smart phone, the other could teach important life responsibilities and pass down a history of the church.
Another way to involve youth is through service in the church. Some churches have clothes closets or soup kitchens in which the youth can help alongside other members of the church. Youth can serve on committees, like outreach, missions or even the nominating committee. This helps youth understand the structure and logistics of church life.
The youth can also help with building maintenance, outdoor work, setting up for communion. In this way the youth are able to take ownership of their church. Youth can also help lead in worship on a regular basis. They are capable of reading scripture, praying and processing in objects of worship, singing in the adult choir and preaching. They should be encouraged to do these things.
It is important to empower youth to see themselves as leaders. This can start by having youth take part in leading youth Sunday school in small groups. Once they are comfortable in that setting, it would be good to encourage them to teach an adult class. This also helps the adults see the youth as having knowledge or perspective to offer. If youth aren’t comfortable in a teaching setting, perhaps they could help plan church wide mission projects or fundraisers for mission partners.
Throughout all of these options, it is important to guide youth in areas where they might not have as much experience. It is also important to help the church find ways to celebrate the leadership that comes from the youth. The youth are a vital part of the current church and should be celebrated as such.
Jeremy Colliver is the Minister to Families with Youth at Smoke Rise Baptist Church in Stone Mountain, GA. He is a native of Lexington, KY and received his B.S. in Accounting from Georgetown College and his Master of Divinty from the Baptist Seminary of Kentucky. Jeremy has a passion for helping students to experience God daily, discover their spiritual gifts, and empower students to use those gifts. Jeremy and Laura have two great kids, Blaine and Molly Frances. They love to be outside exploring the world that is around them.
I think most of us would agree with the following statements:
- Youth need community.
- Youth find community in Youth Group.
- Once youth graduate high school they have a difficult time re-engaging with church.
Here’s a hunch that I’ve had, and experimented with, while ministering with youth:
If youth become involved in the larger community of the church while in middle and high school, when they graduate high school, they will stay engaged with church.
Our students find great community when they are part of the youth group at their church. They find such good community, that when they graduate and try and assimilate themselves into the larger church body, that they find it difficult to find their place. That’s why we need to be more intentional about plugging our students into the church community while they are members of the youth group.
One of the ways that I get our students involved in the larger church body is to help them find a place to serve that matches their passions, gifts, and/or talents. We help our students discover their gifts by providing them various opportunities to serve. As they discover their gifts we help them find a ministry to serve in and with. While they serve in these areas of ministry we match them with a mentor that can help them refine their gifts and talents.
I love watching the students have that initial spark of understanding that “This is what I’m supposed to do.” to the relationships that are formed through the mentoring process. What is really nice though, is seeing that the students are still engaged in church after they have graduated because they have seen they are part of the larger body of the church and not just a member of the youth group.