Last week we discussed the theoretical side of the importance of building an effective Youth Ministry in the Church. I received great feedback from the first part of this blog called 'Awakening The Sleeping Giant'. This week let's talk about how to do this.
The Sleeping Giant
This idea has been the inspiration behind music projects, the focus of books, the content for art, and the object of photography for years. Just look it up on Google or any search engine. I believe there is a sleeping giant in America. The 26 million+ teenagers in our country! And we have a responsibility to shape this generation and raise it. Afterall, they will be the minds and the resource behind future government, education, business, entertainment, and religious movements in our country.
I want to call you to the greatest task before us as a nation. The preparation of our young people to lead the way to the future. As Plato has said, "if we are going to fundamentally change a society we must start with its young people." And Frederick Douglass said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” And even the Apostle Paul said, "You have 10,000 teachers but no fathers (parent)."
Mentoring young people takes work. It isn't easy and it takes a lot of time. Mentoring young people is often discouraging. And it isn't convenient and it can be unpredictable. Mentoring young people is too difficult. It is easy to look at the younger generation and throw our hands up in the air and give up. Well, for some people.
Ha-Ha. That's so true in many ways. But, here's the good news. Young people are dying to be mentored by older people. Literally. Older people have the misconception that younger people do not want to hear from them.
Awakening the young people of your Church is much easier than we've heard, less fearful than you may feel, and more important than we may think.
We've got the largest sleeping giant in the history of the Church sitting in our pews – young people. Here is a short list of how to begin to awaken the young people of your Church before the world gets them or before they lose interest in the Church.
These steps will help you build an effective, purpose-driven ministry in your Church to young people.
1. Make an introduction and make yourself available. I find that lunch is a great time to connect since we all need to eat. And young people are usually up by then. Or maybe you could just introduce yourself to them in the hallways at church. And invite the adults in the Church to spend one lunch a month investing in a young persons life.
Begin with your key leaders in the Church. Ask them to mentor a teenager each year. No pressure. One young person a year. Ask the Youth Leader who key young people would be to invest in. That way, by choosing the right teen, it will be a more productive mentoring relationship.
2. Ask significant spiritual questions and master the art of listening. Bob Biehl said, "Ask shallow questions, get shallow answers; ask profound questions, get profound answers; ask no questions, get no answers." Go after the deep stuff. Ask about devotions, doubt, sexual purity, the future, etc. Don't avoid the issues you are uncomfortable with. Because they are the issues that matter most to a teenager.
Here are some easy questions to ask a teen:
-What keeps you from a consistent devotional life? From this question, you can create a successful plan to help them enact patterns of discipline in their devotion.
-Ask what they are most excited about their future, or, what they are most anxious about their future?
-How are your friends helping your spiritual life? How are they hindering your spiritual life? Find out about a teens relationships with questions about their peers and challenge them to place a more spiritual squad around them.
3. Take an interest in their life and culture. To understand the culture and the setting of the teen is vital for the Church to be able to be more successful in reaching them. This is really just doing good sociological work. context is a neglected area of thought. But it may be one of the things that Jesus did best! He was a master sociologist. Understanding the times and being able to adapt to any setting. The Church must be better at this.
Here are some good sociological ideas:
-Do you know about the music, clothes, and conversations they are having? It might seem weird to you, but these things are important to them. As a matter of fact, the styles and trends that we were into 30 years ago have made a classic run to the present.
-Just look at the myriad of styles around you. Notice that shirt, pant, or shoe. You probably wore them right? Classic styles are in. Your interest will teach you a thing or two and connect you with them.
-You don't have to listen to their music, dress like them, or talk like them. But, at least don't react with such surprise that you separate yourself from them.
-Reference these interests of teens today, allude to them, and let them know that you are not a stranger to the things that interest them. You don't have to espouse to their interests, but, you should show a knowledge of their interests.
4. Make it a point to know their likes and dislikes. This is just good advice in any friendship or relationship. But genuineness and authenticity will go a long way to cover up for your lack of 'cool'. To be honest, teens don't care if you are 'cool'. They will be much more impacted by your care than your 'cool'. To know the likes and dislikes of a person will help you avoid wasted time.
-Use words of encouragement with a teen. Young people respond to genuine encouragement very well. Probably because it is the one thing that is lacking in their world toward them.
-Your interest will get you right to the heart of a teenager. Find out what they have accomplished lately (a sports award, a theatre role, their grades, or an acceptance into college).
-Read their traits or personality. Do they value words, touch, humor, sports, art, or silence? It will help you bridge the gap of conversation.
5. Compliment their strengths. God has given them unique gifts, talents, and strengths, just like you. Celebrate uniqueness. As you encourage and compliment what you see, you will achieve far more in their lives than you'll ever accomplish with cynicism or trying to conform them to your box. Everyone likes to talk about themselves. Or to hear others talk about themselves!
-Be specific with this. Your words will give them confidence. The importance of a spiritual leader in the life of a teenager is immeasurable.
-Ask their parents or a sibling what may have been going on in their life lately. That will give you something to talk about next time you see them.
-An atmosphere of acceptance and positivity may be one of the most attractional cultures for young people. Smile at them, talk to them first, shake their hand, hug them, and speak hope into their future! They don't get a lot of that.
The opportunity is before us
The sustainability we want in the Church will come from this generation of teens. Did you hear that? If the Church is in the hands of the young people that I see across America, the Church is in great hands. The next great leaders of the Church will come from our Youth Ministry. So it is vital to the building of the Church that we awaken the sleeping giant. This is how discipleship and Church growth and sustainability of the Kingdom takes place. Be willing to nudge the sleeping giant this week by using these practical suggestions