1. Young people are fun. When in doubt…play. Play helps build relationships and helps people feel like they belong. The church could use more play. Smile. Laugh. We don’t need to be so serious all the time.
2. Young people are honest. They’ll tell you if something is terrible or if something is great. We don’t need to do studies to figure a lot of things out – just ask, and empower young people to participate and lead. The community will be better for it.
3. Young people want to know what YOU think. You don’t need to be a world-renowned Bible scholar or published theologian – what you do need is sincerity and openness. People of all ages respond well to that. When kids “get it” it is just about the most satisfying thing there is in ministry. Unless of course, they help you “get it” too.
4. Young people are impressionable and curious. Young people’s openness to the world means two things: A.) Taking extra care to keep them safe; and B.) Ministry with young people should be more question-based than answer-based. Ask open-ended questions. Leave room for their questions. Say, “I don’t know.” Be yourself. But be mindful to exercise good and healthy boundaries.
5. Young people have a great cr*p detector. They can tell if you are more interested in preventing them from breaking something, or if you actually care about their well-being. Once they know you care, you’ve got their back and will go to bat for them (even if they break something), good things will follow.
6. Young people can teach adults. Kids haven’t learned yet that there are questions adults are too nervous to ask. Learn from them. Every year in confirmation class my seminary education is renewed by the questions people ask and want to explore together.
7. Parents lead their children; but young people lead their parents too. We learn by what we see our parents do. Until we come of age we tend to adopt the values our parents first inspire in us – in both helpful and destructive ways. Our parents’ priorities become our own until we start to challenge them when we get some independence of our own. But I have seen on many occasions – young people whose faith inspires adults, whose dedication to their community of faith and their thirst to grow as children of God evangelize their parents. When this happens, it is an amazing gift to those families and the whole church. Equipping those in faith who aren’t getting it at home is a real challenge. Pray for them. Encourage them. Their leadership and faith development can use your support.
8. Parents who bring their kids to church seek help. There are many gifted, faith-filled, well-meaning people who bring their kids to church. The have made it a priority to raise their children in the faith. Maybe they are doing some things at home, like table and night time prayers or talking about their day, but aren’t sure what else to do. Teach those parents, embrace them, empower them, and encourage them. Two great resources are Faith Inkubators – Faith Five: Share (highs and lows of the day), Read (a bible verse or story), Talk (about the connections), Pray (about highs and lows, family, and the world), Bless (one another) http://www.faithink.com/inkubators/faith5.asp, and Vibrant Faith Ministries – Vibrant faith at home activities http://www.vibrantfaithathome.org/im-new . Check them out for yourself. Share with others.
9. Parents who don’t bring their kids to church that much could use our encouragement. There are many gifted, faith-filled, well-meaning people who are members of our faith-communities who don’t bring their kids to church regularly or seek help in raising their children in the faith. Maybe church is simply not a priority for them. Maybe there is some hidden pain there in which we are unaware. Maybe something else is going on. Whatever the situation is, they are missing out on some really great things happening and we should invite them; and invite them; and invite them. When we do connect with them, we should invite them again. Hospitality can go a long way to help everyone go about things differently.
10. Those not connected to faith-communities at all could use some good news. Maybe families not connected to the church wouldn’t articulate it that way, but all of us struggle to make sense of this world, think about our place in it and the next generation, and care about the young people in our lives. The world is a scary place; and the cultural narrative is to “hustle so you don’t miss anything” and “get yours” before someone else does. Many people feel overwhelmed if not helpless. We have a different story to tell – one of presence in the moment, generosity, hope, caring, community and a never-ending love for a broken world. As our stories interact with others, new connections can be made. The Spirit is at work; who knows what could come of our efforts?
These are my TOP 10. What would you add to the list?
A Reminder: Jesus promises, “Where two or three are gathered, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20). We are called into ministry with others not for the sake of building up our numbers or to keep programs going – we are sent in Jesus’ name to connect people with the promises of God communicated to us through the loving and caring relationships that remind us Jesus is with us, no matter what.
A Final Comment: As we go forth we should continually remind each other is to “be” the church outside of the building. God is at work all around us…keep looking, loving and serving!
For to this end we toil and struggle, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. These are the things you must insist on and teach. Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. (1 Timothy 4:10-12)