A few weeks ago, I ran across this article on Edutopia that looks at using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to address the needs of students in the classroom. Maslow’s theory, presented in 1943, remains a popular framework for sociology and psychology, even though it has its critics and skeptics. Maslow’s theory says that the most basic needs must be met before a person can focus on the other needs in the hierarchy. I am wondering how we pay attention to these needs as we minister to and with people. Let’s look at the five types of needs, as classified by Maslow, and how they might relate to youth ministry (or really any ministry.)
Physiological Needs are the most basic needs – those things we need to survive such as food, water, air, and sleep. When we gather our group together, when we meet at any point, are we aware that these needs are being met? Simple things can be done to meet these most basic needs.
Security Needs are those that help us feel safe, stable, and secure such as having a job, health care, safe neighborhoods, and shelter. What are ways in which your congregation can look at the needs of the surrounding community and make a difference in the security needs in your neighborhood. On a more personal level, what will make your youth feel more safe and secure?
Social Needs include belonging, love, and affection. This could not be a more important topic for young people as they are in the midst of discovering who they are and what that means in the world. This is not just about personal belonging and love, but also how we are conscious of bringing others love and helping everyone find a place to belong. It is about finding acceptance and companionship.
Esteem Needs point to our need for achievement, recognition, and respect. What are the ways in which we can lift up each person’s contributions and gifts? This dovetails nicely with social needs. If people feel they belong, they will be willing to share what they are good at doing.
Self-Actualization Needs is at the highest place in Maslow’s hierarchy. This is the place in which we become creative, solve problems, look at our personal growth, look beyond ourselves to help those around us. This is where having mentors and adults to help them on their journey becomes important. Reaching your potential is not an individualistic journey, but one that takes a community.
Needless to say, there is much more and I could go on. But rather than that, I challenge you to think about how your congregation and ministry is tending to these needs in the cyclical way that they come up throughout our lives. How can we respond to these needs so we can each live into what God has made us to be?
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