This post is adapted from Connected for Life: Essential Guide to Youth Ministry and was written by A. J. Mastic.
Maybe serving in youth ministry is a new journey for you. Perhaps you trained for this—or maybe you’re a new volunteer and you’re wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into! No matter how you got to this point, what’s important is that as you take your first steps in youth ministry, you do so with an awareness of not only your skills, but your roles. Am I a teacher? chaperone? dodgeball referee? friend? mentor? A good understanding of your roles will help define your work and the nature of your relationships with the youth.
How can we teach teenagers to turn to God for help? The first step in doing so is recognizing what teenagers are seeking so we can show them how God meets their needs. All people, including teenagers, need forgiveness, acceptance, community, and endurance. We can use the acronym F.A.C.E. to remember these four things. Let’s take a look at the F.A.C.E. of Jesus and see how these gifts He brings through the Lord’s Supper apply to youth ministry today.
When intergenerational learning happens, bonds are formed. Wisdom is shared. Faith challenges are tackled. Most important, these relationships bind people to the church and to one another so the faith can be organically passed down the generations. Here are some principles for intergenerational education.
Having finished confirmation, Sunday School, and youth group, some adults feel like their faith lives have plateaued. The demands of maintaining a home, a job, school, and relationships with friends and family can leave adults feeling drained. On the other hand, adults who struggle to find meaning in their daily work can feel restless. Without regular classes or caregivers to guide their faith, adults need support from the church community to keep faith their number-one priority.
Teenagers will discard some aspects from their previous experiences of faith, moving on to new ideas and beliefs that make sense to their ways of thinking. Discussion of theology and what God says about the issues teenagers face are important to them.
Middle school students need to be loved and valued. They need to know that they are important to adults, even though they often communicate that adults are not particularly important to them.
Upper elementary students like to talk about their faith and discuss issues that bother them. They are adept at listening to the opinions of others, and peers can often answer their questions as clearly as the teacher is able. They want to know how to apply their faith to everyday situations.
Younger children in this age group trust God in the same way they trust adults in their lives. They talk about God as their Father and Jesus as God’s Son, but they still confuse God and Jesus. Older children begin to understand the difference between God the Father and Jesus; some add the concept of the Holy Spirit to their base of knowledge.
Early childhood students express their love for Jesus in songs, art, prayers, and worship. They make up their own prayers and are able to ask for forgiveness. They want to love and obey God. Teachers and other adults need to furnish them with frequent reminders of God’s love.
Toddlers need to feel unconditional love and acceptance. They need to interact with adults in positive ways. As we teach them, we need to show interest and concern for each child. This is how young children begin to understand God’s love for them.