Monday, January 31, 2022

YOUTH: What's the purpose of a youth group?

Someone recently asked me, "What's the purpose of a youth group?" 

People have been asking this for years, and the answer may seem obvious. A CHURCH youth group must include worship, prayer, Bible study or faith education, discipleship, and fellowship. After all, it's not a club. It's not just a place for kids to get together and "hang." Our main goal is that they grow in knowledge of God's word and that their faith grow and strengthen so that when they get out in the world they can confidently answer two questions: 

      • What do you believe? 
      • Why do you believe it?

The challenge is to make it a place that teens want to be so that we can educate and challenge their faith in a way that encourages spiritual growth. This is why I spend so much time writing about knowing what's going on in the hearts and minds of kids. It helps us know how to equip and encourage them in the faith. 

So, what's most important to teens?  The answer is much simpler than it is to make it happen. At that time of life everything is about belonging. Beginning in about 5th-6th grade kids develop a strong inner drive to belong to a group. They've got hormones raging around inside them pushing them, they're brain is heavier on emotion than reason, and how they see themselves is highly dependent on how their peers see them. Girls are looking for a best friend or a few best friends, and guys are looking for their "squad." A teenager's life is all about social connections, being with friends, and "hanging out." Given the chance they would not go to school. Not one of them gets up every morning excited to go to school and learn Algebra 2 or Biology, even though they may enjoy those classes. They get up excited to see their friends and hear the latest social information. They are social creatures. It's their basic need and it's a challenge to have an effect on someone whose basic needs aren't met. 

A teenagers basic need is belonging. They will choose the group that accepts them no matter what the values of that group are, so, one of my primary purposes is to provide that group where they can feel safe, valued, wanted, and connected; with Jesus at the center. What does this mean? It means that your goals and their goals are different, and that's okay. 

Knowing that teenagers' goals are social and focus on belonging (and knowing that an adult is not the best answer to that), we understand and work with it. Some people think that youth group should be fun over everything in order to keep them coming, but coming for what? This is not a social club. It's an intentional social club with the intent of Bible education and faith growth. In spite of what they want, we have a much broader and more important goal; looking toward their eternal life and not just this one. When they leave your church to go out into the big mean world, as Christians we want them to be confident in their faith because the world will eat away at any faith they have.  

Honestly, ALL people want to feel they belong somewhere to a degree, but in the teen years it's very strong. So, what happens after high school? They continue to look for that group, but they're out in the world now. EVERY church near a college or university should keep that in mind. Create a ministry to connect your high school graduates to a Christian group if they leave town. That's why we need a men's ministry, a women's group, and opportunities for children and families to be encouraged and stay connected in the faith. Everyone wants to feel like they belong somewhere. Everyone needs to have someone they feel safe talking to about life issues. Everyone needs friends and it's hard to hug a computer. 

For more about teaching the faith to teens in a way that touches on their social needs, see The Art of Teaching the Faith

Friday, January 7, 2022

PODCAST: 3rd Graders - Ready? Set? Teach the Faith!

 Introducing BIBLE INQUIRY!! If you know a parent or teacher who wants to know how to effectively teach the faith to 3rd graders? Here you go! Episode 9 of To Cause to Learn: Effective Teaching in the Church.