There is something I’ve noticed. Churches want to reach youth, but they often have no idea how. They have bought into the myth that all we can expect to do is keep teenagers plied with squash, biscuits and Bible stories and that some day they might remember those nice people at the church and come back to God. Youth workers, by contrast, often have more hope than the rest of the church that teenagers can and do still come to faith. It is hard, slow, work. We persevere, yet it can leave us drained in the space between the finish line that we run towards and the starting line, where we find most of our youth. Even youth ministers can begin to feel those pangs of doubt about our effectiveness or calling.
What is the starting line?
The starting line is often that a young person has no need for God and maybe a few misconceptions of Him as well. God is either a painful idea or worse, an irrelevant one. The line that we youth workers used to begin at, was that young people were ready to meet God. That they had been waiting for an opportunity to commit to Him. When provided with one, they would gladly accept Him and pray the prayer to become a Christian. When that doesn’t happen….we feel disappointed to say the least. I know I’ve felt that way.
We need to redefine the starting line.
I believe that most young people don’t realise they are spiritual beings. Without grasping that they are spiritual beings, there’s no place for God to be. Understanding and experiencing that they have a place for God is the foundation to faith. This is the starting line from which a relationship with God through Jesus Christ can begin.
I’ve started a new group called ‘Stir Nights’. A group of eleven young people come over to my house to share a meal and for discussion. Recently, I’ve been encouraged by a clear insight; teenagers are very aware of their spirituality and are interested in spiritual things. The first Stir Night centred around a discussion of just that and it was obvious that these young people had loads of experience with spiritual feelings and thoughts. Often they were just below the surface. The chat was great and everyone seemed to have something to share.
The second Stir Night, used lots of creative stations to enhance the point that God is everywhere. Our young people were challenged to experience how God whispers into their everyday lives, just below the normal volume of life. This night something amazing happened to our group! One of the stations connected to a young person and she opened up a lot about how her family life was something she’d seen ‘something more’ working through. She could name this as God. Two of the girls were tearful as they heard this. There’s something deeply human about relating to each other.
I’m finding that the Stir Pack helps me to engage young people. It’s so effective in speaking into this new starting line, where I find my young people. I think as youth workers we need to be learners of the culture we are ministering to. We need to see how we can engage with our specific youth culture. Creating effective connections with young people. Let’s open our ears to young people around us and let’s listen to what they’re communicating to us!
We need to let go of what we’d like to do and how we’d like to do it. Let’s take up our place alongside others on the starting line. We need a heart to show young people how loved they are and we need to help them to unlock the ability they already have to know God. Let’s make mistakes and try all while we learn from each other. I hope this post had encouraged you to do that. My story of Stir Nights definitely motivates me to try more to engage with unchurched teenagers in Bridgnorth, Shropshire. It’s exciting to see young people leaving that starting line and meeting God.
Categories: Youth Ministry Resources
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