What a Church Family Means to Teens
Bear with me as I share this story from my last church. One Sunday one of our 8th grade boys showed up to church wearing a suit and a tie. I was wearing jeans that day (dress jeans for those who understand that fashion) and the practice for the rest of the staff is to rarely wear a tie. This boy’s appearance was a shock to us, many whom have known him his entire life. So the moment he entered into our worship center he was mobbed with comments. Comments he definitely expected to receive. Comments he definitely did receive. He came to church that morning knowing that he would receive the hubbub he did receive. This once shy, asperger’s-diagnosed boy came to church purposely to be the center of our attention that morning.
This reminds me of a story Mark Yaconelli told in a classic youth ministry read, Contemplative Youth Ministry. This story continues to stick in my mind as a goal.
“When I leave my house to go to church, I usually begin walking like I walk to school. But then as I come around my block and see the church building, I start smiling. And by the time I reach the curb in front of the church, I’m giggling. And then when I reach the front door of the church, I’m just about ready to fall down laughing because I know as soon as I open that door all of these older folks are going to be looking over and see me and start smiling. Then they’re going to come over and hug me and they’re going to ask me all kinds of questions and they’re going to want me to sit by them in the service. And that just cracks me up.”(pp. 100-101)
How does this happen that teens come to church looking forward to being with “old folks?” And as you know in any church congregation makeup, there is usually a low percentage of “cool old folks” and a high percentage of “not-so-cool old folks.” It is simply because teens pick up their cues on how to be from the surrounding adult culture. These teens are choosing to take their cues from the adults at church. As your Family & Youth Director, this is my goal for each of our teens. Which means I need you to be involved in some way.
Chap Clark in his study of mid-adolescence and the abandonment that they feel also reiterates this, "Lastly, the most effective thing we can do to foster spiritual maturity in our children is to integrate them into adult relationships in the body of Christ. Because mid-adolescence developed due to our collective neglect and abandonment, we must undo its effects by bringing adults and kids together. Young people should be allowed and encouraged to participate in adult Sunday school and Bible study classes, go on men's and women's retreats, and serve on ministry and service teams with adults. The more your child feels that they are part of something bigger than themselves and that they are included in not only a family but the family of God, the more they will allow themselves to be drawn into a level of faith that will strengthen and lead them for the rest of their lives." (Fuller Youth Institute)
I so hope that all of our teens will be drawn into a level of faith that will strengthen and lead them for the rest of their lives. Wearing a suit and tie on one Sunday is not a youth ministry plan. But providing this boy the opportunity to know he would get the reaction he did is.
Now that you are inspired to get involved, your mind starts reeling with the practicality of that. This is what I’m asking of you. 1. Talk to a teen every Sunday morning. Make that a personal goal. 2. Help with a one-off event for the teens. Below is a questionnaire to help me plan whatever that may be. This is my promise to you. I will resource you well and I will not abandon you anywhere along the way.
Here are a few one-off ideas for you to get involved:
- Open your home for a one-time event
- I’d like to teach financial principles to teens
- Lead and organize one servant project annually
- Behind-the-scenes organizer, random projects
- Food provider
- Lead a Pinterest project for a one-time event
- Lead a cooking group
- Official church photographer
In this Sunday's (March 5) Lifeline there will be a questionair to fill out with all of these details. Or simply email me and let's chat.