I like to think that youth learn a LOT about the faith in they youth ministry in my church.
In fact, my church pays me to do exactly that, to teach the youth about God and the Bible and Jesus…etc. We spend lots of time and effort doing that, and it’s going well for me. But, when I look at all the things my youth will need when they leave my ministries and go out into the world, hopefully to make disciples of all the nations, I see several things that they will need that can’t be learned by reading the Bible or listening to my talks. There are several things that will be crucial to their adult disciple lives that they should be learning, and youth group is the perfect place
As many youth groups do, we play games almost every single week. We spend time doing team-building activities and getting-to-know-you prompts, but is that enough? Are my youth able to share responsibility and make substantive decisions with other people? Is their work interdependent? Every retreat, mission trip and overnight we do, I work team-building into at least one part of the evening because this is so very important.
Problem-Solving and Innovation
This isn’t just a positive Christian quality, it’s an important life quality. Are my youth able to solve real-world problems in a group or individual setting? Are youth able to create solutions in real-time and implement those solutions? While working on teamwork, why not work on inspiring innovation as well? Create games that take out-of-the-box solutions.
Youth ministry can look a lot like lecturing if we’re not careful, and that’s not always the best way to develop communication skills or to evaluate whether youth understand the material. Are my youth able to communicate their own ideas regarding a concept or belief? Can they express themselves clearly and creatively to a specific audience? Finding opportunities to have youth share their points of view, their testimony, their questions or even their favorite kind of cheese to the wider group are all ways to develop communication skills.
Bridging Concepts and Knowledge Construction
This is the crux of Confirmation, right? Are my youth able to construct and apply the knowledge they are being taught, and can they apply concepts from one lesson to future lessons? Spending time reviewing previous lessons and connecting common threads between them encourages youth to think about teaching as a linear process, not individual lessons. Confirmation is a great example of a time when all I want is to not have to reteach the previous weeks lesson a second (or third…) time, right? Connect with the past, bridge to the future.
Being able to actively listen will aid my youth in every relationship they are in from now on. Can my youth listen to a lesson, comment or question with focus and comprehension? Can they fully concentrate on listening, comprehend and respond? This is something I focus on in smaller groups or even one-on-one. Praying for one another is a great way of doing it. They have to listen to the concerns and joys and then turn around and rephrase and pray that concern. This takes time, as we all know listening is not always a teenager’s strong point, but is well worth the time and effort.
Are my youth able to identify social issues in their neighborhood, high school or city? Are they aware of the issues surrounding the places we travel to do mission work and outreach? Until my youth begin to watch CNN or listen to NPR, I have tried to make sure awareness and understanding is a large role in our mission work locally and nationally. After all, one of the benefits of doing a mission trip is to bring awareness to the youth that there are important social issues that they are capable of impacting.
Teaching more than just who built the ark will help youth go out into the world to be better communicators, better speakers, better leaders and better disciples. Christians who can do all of these things well will find it easier to share their faith and evangelize as well as tell others that Noah built the ark out of Hickory bark. The best part is, incorporating these practices into youth group and retreats is easy, some of it might already be part of how you are doing ministry. To shift focus onto these principals are usually small shifts with a huge impact.