Friday, April 23, 2010

Perspectives from the Field: Changes in Youth Ministry

When I agreed to help with the church youth group back in ’95, I had no idea that I’d still be involved with the group in 2010; most of my youth hadn’t even been born back then. While I started as a volunteer youth sponsor, my role has changed a couple times and the youth have changed many times as well.

Back in ‘95, the youth were active in School, Sports, Scouts and Song but it was nothing like today. It’s a challenge to find a time that the youth are available. When we put together this year’s Confirmation class, we felt fortunate to find one hour during the week that everyone was available most of the time. Even so, we have at least one person missing each week during our class.

One of the lessons I’ve learned is to find out what they’re interested and figure out how to be a part of it. We have a Youth Sunday each year and when we discovered that some of our youth weren’t interested in speaking in front of anyone but had artistic talent, we made that the theme of the service. We had one youth that brought his sculptures to church while another has done creative dance (ballet one year, tap the next) as part of the service. Another youth used his leadership skills to create Northland Youth United, a group for the United Methodist churches north of the river. Then, another one of our youth directed a play for one of the NYU worship services that involved several churches and allowed a creative approach to worship.

Our youth are so busy that I’ve learned the lesson that you should only do one activity per weekend to avoid their lives getting any busier than necessary. Of course, we have had a few exceptions through the year but you don’t want them to get church burn-out. Another lesson learned is that sometimes you need to go to your youth. I’ve gone to soccer and basketball games, watched the Marching Band play at halftime of football games, and been to orchestra concerts and school plays. In some ways, that’s had a bigger impact than any program or lesson that I could lead on Sunday.

Our congregation has embraced our youth and celebrated them for who they are. This year, they’ve even served as mentors to our congregation class and helped our church family to build inter-generational relationships.

The bottom line is to show the youth that they are loved and to each day live the theem of youTheology: Loving God, Loving Neighbor.

by Mark Whitaker
Youth & Young Adult Director and Communications Coordinator
Avondale United Methodist Church in Kansas City MO (North of the River)
Advisory Board for youTheology / Marketing Coordinator

Loving God, Loving Neighbor

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