by Brian Robertson, Pastor of Student Ministries
There is something interesting emerging in our culture that has caused us to rethink how it is we approach the concept of nurturing faith in the future generations. For years we have assumed that the best way to teach/lead young people is to provide specialized programming especially for them. The adolescent stage of life is full of young people seeking to understand their own identity, sense of autonomy and find a place of belonging. There is a natural pulling away from adults in their life during this stage – you may have experienced this. As adults, we have taken this as a hint to give them space and leave them alone. In our best efforts, we provide various places/programs where they can be with others their own age and explore their faith.
What is interesting is that most young people voice a desire to have deep relationships with adults in their life but don’t feel as though the adults really want them around. Yet for years we have operated as if the most effective way to reach/lead/teach young people was in providing a place away from most adults. We have intentionally separated from each other believing that this would allow young people to own their faith.
Recent studies seem to point to a different reality. The main factor we can see in a young person having a growing and developing life with God post-high school isn’t having specific programs, camps, mission trips just for them but in developing relationships with 5-6 caring adults who are a part of their faith community. In an interesting study, the Fuller Youth Institute followed graduated seniors through their college transition and found that the majority who were highly involved in a youth ministry left the church and their faith within 18 months. The common factor in the stories of people who grew in their faith was a sense of integration into the church body. In other words, they felt as if they belonged to an extended family. It is increasingly becoming evident that what young people need more of is a network of caring adults who make room for them in their life and invite them to sit alongside as we explore a life of faith together.
In recognition of this, we are making some changes in the way we structure our youth ministries. InSight Middle School will happen on Sunday mornings from 11:00-12:30. On the first Sunday of the month, we will continue to invite students to join the rest of the church family for worship and communion afterward we will gather with whomever would like to and go out to lunch. We are creating space on Sunday evening to encourage families to connect with other families in the church and help facilitate cross-generational relationships. In addition, we will be hosting a number of workshops for adults who have teens in their life.
With these changes, we still feel that it is important to have a place that is unique for students. We will still take students away for camp, special events, activities, mission trips, etc. The big recognition is that while these events/programs are important, they cannot replace the importance of cross-generational relationships and a network of supportive adults within the faith community.
Our high school group, will in many ways, stay the same. Most of the changes will occur in our middle school group.
How does this affect you? A couple of ways. If you have a teenager…
1. Please commit to coming each week to the 11am service and give a little grace for us as we will end closer to 12:30.
2. Encourage your son/daughter to continue to come to church on Communion Sunday. I realize they may push against this and even fight you on this, but it is important for them to begin to develop cross-generational relationships and see others worshipping together.
3. Find other families within the church whom you can have over for dinner – share a meal and play together.
4. Participate in the upcoming seminars/workshops that will be offered to help facilitate ongoing conversations.
5. A couple ways to stay informed on what is happening around InSight Youth Ministries:
a. Subscribe to the blog: http://www.insightyouthministries.wordpress.com
b. Join the Insight Youth Ministries Group on Facebook
c. Ask to be added to either the Middle School or High School email list (send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org)
If you don’t have a teenager living at home…
1. Would you take the risky step in approaching one before or after the service and simply seek to get to know them a little? Ask them if you will see them the following week and seek to remember their name … don’t overwhelm yourself, just ONE will do!
2. Seek ways to connect to a family of teenagers – invite them to join you in something.
3. Find a young person in the service and find out a way that you might encourage them to continue to seek first the Kingdom of God – ask them if you might pray for a certain area in their life.
4. Serve alongside a young person – go on a mission trip, serve in ARTS Camp, invite teenagers to join you as you serve in the community
Thank you, Church Family, for loving the next generation. Together we can help young people have a faith that is dynamic, growing and life-giving.
I’m excited for these changes and if you have any questions about them, just let me know.