Many of us are making our final plans for starting up our fall programming in our faith communities. Barbeques, picnics, bowling parties, ice cream socials, pizza night, and kick-off Sunday celebrations are all in the works and we are looking forward to the year ahead. In all of the excitement, it can be hard to remember that for many youth, there will be uneasiness, anxiety, and fear about the unknown. If a child has never been to youth ministry programs before, they may not know what to expect at all. If they have been, they may be wondering what will be different this year, will certain people come, will a different person talk to them, or what crazy stuff will the youth minister make us do this year. This kind of unknown, even if they have grown up in the church and have been excited, can make the first few months of the year so important.
In too many churches, the youth director focuses only on the youth who show up for youth group. That’s the youth ministry. The youth who show up.
In most churches, however, you’ll often find youth who never attend the youth group. They attend worship services. They may be involved in other aspects of the church, but since they’re not in the youth group, they fall through the youth-ministry crack.
A strong youth ministry cares for all youth—those involved in the church youth ministry and those who never show up.
I get asked questions at least once a month about Confirmation. What program should I use? What videos are the best? How can I keep the kids interested? How long should it be? How long does it have to be? Can we do a confirmation class with adults and youth together? How big or small should the class be? How old should the person be to be confirmed? How do we help people decide if they are ready to be confirmed? How do we honor what the youth decide? How do we involve mentors? How do we involve the parents?
Many people today are yearning for quiet time, or time to be still, or time for themselves without interruptions. Life today is full. Full of study, work, friends, family, play, technology, etc. We have cars and bikes that get us places more quickly, we have technology that helps us get things done more quickly, we have fast food, and instant gratification. It is all more than we can truly take.
Schools are great a helping kids find out how to do things – reading, writing, math, research, and critical thinking to name a few. They are good at helping kids discover the importance of physical activity, sharing, honesty, art, music, and learning languages to name a few. What I don’t see very often, is helping them to discover more about themselves by looking at who they are, what makes them tick, why they think certain things are important while others don’t, or how to become centered rather than scattered. It won’t work to simply tell them to go discover themselves – we have to be there to mentor them on their journey.
I have been doing lots of thinking and wondering about what those of us doing formation in churches can learn from school teachers, practitioners, and educators. In searching the web for information that might help us discover new ways to form our people in the faith, I came across this article (http://connectedprincipals.com/archives/8061) on essential skills for children and youth, based on the “C’s” of education. The “C’s” of education vary depending on which list you turn to, but the most comprehensive list is Communication, Connection, Collaboration/Cooperation, Creation/Contribution, Community, Continual Learning, and Culture. If we think about how we can incorporate these into our life of faith and our learning, I think we could go a long way toward a more holistic approach to learning.
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