Friday, April 9, 2010

Perspectives from the Field: The Changing of Time

I can remember when I first began working with youth within the church. That was way before Facebook, Twitter or the many other social networking forums. My main focus back then was just to get the youth to build a relationship with GOD.

Every week I would struggle with the question, “What can I do this week?” I would let the Holy Spirit guide and lead me for the content and details. Still, I knew I had to keep it fresh and new each week. I tried having Youth Group on different days of the week. We went with Monday, then Wednesday. It didn’t matter as long has the kids would arrive, I thought. But, I also came to realize that we must continue to change with the time.

Let me stop here and say to those who might be saying “No, I am not going to change the way I teach the Word of God,” If you do not adapt to the environment of your congregation and/or the youth you serve, they will stop coming. You can continue to preach the Word of God, but it will be to an empty space if you are using the old blackboard with chalk and lecture all day technique. The kids hear that all day at school and they are tired of that way of teaching.

Instead, try using Christian movies or YouTube clips. Show testimonies or gospel music videos. Use Facebook to announce gatherings. Explore the many other new ways to keep the mind and heart of our youth engaged with Christ. You can use these new channels of communication and not lose the flavor of God in your message.

Over the years, we also realized that if the youth have empty stomachs, their main focus will be on getting some food. So we added a meal to our Youth group meetings. We discovered that for some of our kids the Wednesday night meal at Youth group was their only after school meal all week.

We also had to change the expectation of the Youth Leaders that things always had to be done their way. On certain Wednesdays, we let the youth lead the sessions. We even designated one Wednesday a month as game night. We still have worship on that night, but after worship they get to play games until they leave.

Learning the needs of the youth we serve, sometimes means that as Youth Workers, we must humble ourselves and modify the way we think and act in the name of Jesus.

by Earl Williams
Youth Director and Safe & Sacred Space Trainer
Grace United Methodist Church, Emporia, KS
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

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