This is a guest post from Carlie at Memos From The Management.
I love teenagers. When I’ve proclaimed this in the past, I’ve had people roll their eyes and tell me just to wait until I’m mothering one of them, but I think they’re wrong. Teenagers are amazing people, bursting with new ideas, their brains firing at speeds that would make our dusty old grey matter look fast asleep in comparison. They are excited (no matter how coolly apathetic they try to look) and they are so, so passionate (even if they are only passionate about appearing apathetic).
Many of our churches have active youth groups, and some of us are even lucky enough to have a youth minister who takes care of the spiritual well-being of all those amazing minds. But all too often many of us adults are inclined to leave the spiritual formation of our churches’ youth to youth pastors and youth leaders, never bothering to build relationships with an entire subgroup of fascinating people. The youth leaders are, after all, doing a marvelous job doing the job God has called them to do.
So why should we build relationships with the youth in our churches? Although there are many good reasons (enough for a whole blog post on its own), it can be distilled down to one: because the Bible has instructed us to do so because when we do, it makes it harder for people to malign our faith.
“…They can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them and example by doing what is good. In you teaching show integrity, seriousness, and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” (Titus 2:2-8, NIV)
I’m not even thirty yet, so I don’t generally like thinking of myself as an old woman, but the fact is, I’m older than someone, and I need to bear my Biblical responsibility. Below are three ways that you can start building relationships with your church’s youth, and become a Titus 2 woman even if you don’t feel old:
1. Feed them. Youth groups love being fed. And when their hands are distracted – this is where they are most likely to open up to you and tell you about themselves. So invite yours over for a barbeque, or a pizza party, or, if your budget doesn’t allow for feeding a small army of young people, organize a traveling potluck with some other families in your church. Each one would be responsible for preparing one dish, and the youth group travels from house to house, eating along the way. I would urge you against preparing a potluck in your church basement, because more often than not, these end up looking like junior high dances, only instead of boys and girls separated by a gymnasium of space, it’s youth and adults. By bringing them into your home, you’re forced to interact with at least a few of them.
2. Volunteer to help your youth leaders. Even if your church is tiny and your youth group is only four strong, your youth leaders would be thrilled to have you along for the ride. And the teens! They get tired of seeing the same faces week in and week out and love to see new ones. This doesn’t have to be a long-term commitment, just a night or two throughout the year is more than many will commit to. Simply by showing up, even if at first you’re uncomfortable actively participating, you’re showing the youth that that they matter to their church family, and that they are worth your time.
3. Talk to them and not just to their parents when they are standing nearby. It’s very easy for us as adults to look at the youth in our church and say that we know them, and we talk to them just because we are friends with their parents, and they have come to our houses with their families and we have gone to theirs with ours. But teenagers are not the sum of their parents, and they often have interesting things to say. Getting to know a teen on their own terms is a great way to start building a relationship.
If you take time to build relationships with the youth in your church, I guarantee that your lives will be richer for it. And so will theirs.
How have you worked to build relationships with the youth in your church?
Carlie is a Canadian mama of one delightful baby girl whose gentle parenting guidelines have helped make Carlie the mother she is today. She loves God and her husband and being a mother teaches her every day how much she needs to lean on both. A high school language teacher before becoming a mom, Carlie maintains that fifteen is the greatest age for a child to be, although her baby can stay a baby forever, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble. Carlie blogs at Memos From The Management.