Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Serving those between the ages of about 14 and 18

I love the youth, I love youth groups and youth service projects and youth services. I love14-year-olds and 18-year-olds and every stage the young people go through, well mostly.I was a swim coach for many years and we'd sometimes wish we could tell the girls to go do another sport for 8th grade and come on back when they were in 9th grade.

But I love church work with youth. In fact, I have two children in this age group right now. I'm all about the youth.

It is tricky to figure out just how to serve youth in a church. Some teens love to go to church, they want to sing in the choir, a good sermon will make their day, hymns bliss them out. Some teens cannot drag themselves out of bed one more morning a week, and would never choose to go to a Sunday Service unless some DRE they respected talked them into it once in a while.

Those youth might just love youth group meetings with long check-ins and piles of junk food. Some of each set might like youth Rallies or Cons or camps or lock-ins. Some might hate it.

And of course we all want our teens to grow up and still be the religion that we raised them to be! So, we want to do this youth ministry just right so they have a connection to their faith.
Sometimes I think we're looking for a "one size fits all" approach to youth ministry. That's impossible. It's not something we'd do in ministry for adults, why should we think it can work for youth?

No, I think we need the events that appeal to some, and the congregational based inclusive programming that appeal to others, the attention to noticing what the youth in our own churches need and the readiness to try something we've never tried before.

What I need right now, what I really need right now is about five more 14-18-year-olds who don't have big sports, arts, jobs or friend commitments who all just cannot wait to become vital leaders in their church. So then when half the youth can't show up for a youth group meeting or event, well, we'd still have enough to make a real group. Because we only expect half the adult members, half the children, even some ministers are only expected to preach twice a month.

But, somehow I don't think I'm going to get five more youth to join our church in the next two weeks. And two of our core of five are my own children. There are a lot of really great UU churches in my city, with a lot of really great youth programming run by really great people who I adore. My oldest son drives.

I am in an impossible spot.

But I am a mother first.

This is not going to be easy.


Adam Lehman said...


I said a little prayer for you. My parents faced this same dilemma when I was a teenager.

I'm now a youth pastor.

They'll turn out alright.


Kari said...

Thanks, Adam. Your faith means a lot to me, and I deeply appreciate the prayer.