To start September, I want to review the Summer with a blog on the encouraging things that I saw across the nation. I was at nine camps in eight states, spoke with paid and volunteer Youth Pastors and Leaders of large and small Churches. And that gives me an interesting perspective on the health of Youth Ministry.
Let's just say that, if the Church is in the hands of the young people that I have seen across America, the Church is in great hands!
So, here are some noticeable trends in Youth Ministry across America:
THE FAMILY NEEDS A COMEBACK
I have watched the outcomes from the broken home cripple teens. It may be the number 1 problem in their world. Let me encourage you though with how I see them handling it.
There are so many Top Ten lists. Top Tens for politics, sports, and television shows. Top Tens are an easy way to get quick conversation about a topic. But, maybe one of the most important Top Tens for today is how to bring the family back! Before my wife passed away, Jane and I put together the Top Ten Ways to Improve Our Marriage. Nobody has a perfect marriage. But here's our attempt to create better marriages. And here are some things that I have seen teens using to deal with the pain of a broken home.
1) Listen - It sounds so simple, but it is true. How do you feel when you know you are really being listened to? How do you feel when you know you are not being listened to? See the difference? Listening while you read the paper or watch the TV is not listening. I know that teens want to have family dinner and devotions at the table. They may say the opposite, but, deep down inside, they would love it!
2) Apologize - Apologize every morning when you wake up. Before you do something wrong! In any relationship, you will have something for which to apologize. A genuine apology communicates that you care enough about the other person to admit when you are wrong and try not to do it again. I have heard teens this Summer saying that they need to take the initiative in their home!
3) Compliment - Saying something nice about every one in the home every week. Their dress, shirt, or haircut are all nice things. But, you can go farther than the outward with the following: "I really like the way you handled that situation”, “You are such a good example of a dad/mom”, “That was a great meal honey”, or, "If I had the chance to marry you all over again, I would." Take the time to speak compliments to every person in the home weekly!
4) Touch-hold-caress - How well the family does this may be the most powerful affect upon the sexuality of our children. So many conversations this Summer with students who have broken relationships with their parents. Everyone needs to be touched. When I work with couples who are having problems, one of the very first things I suggest is to simply hold each other. That one small move contributes to a great deal of healing in a relationship. Touch is a great way to build the entire family relationship.
A Return To The Word
I guess to say that I see a return to the Word in Youth Ministry means that I have seen a decline of it in the past. Without the data facts to support this other than conversations and observation, you have to trust me. We have had a loss of the appeal of words in general with the rise of social media. And I believe that because of this many Youth Leaders have compensated for this by increasing the Word in Youth Ministry. The attention that I saw in students this Summer for the preaching and teaching of the Word was encouraging.
Let me talk about the 'Moderation of Re-invention'.
We cannot simply build Youth Ministry on roller coasters and object lessons and games. Those are too expensive. And the students will lose interest annually if you do not create a bigger ride, a more creative object lesson, and a funnier game. We must be careful to keep a 'Moderation of Re-invention'. By that I mean not trading the principles that brought transformation in the New Testament for personal ideology in the 21st century. Get back to the Word. I see a hunger for God's Word in this generation. I know you might think this is an anecdotal thought without support, but, I'm telling you, my experience is that students are not challenged enough. When they are, they will rise to the challenge.
Take a lesson from these last 2 posts. Take a lesson from others who are in Youth Ministry alongside of you. Even though we may live in a negative society we can change the narrative. Be encouraged. These are the greatest days of your life as a Youth Leader!