raising godly children
Getting Kids Involved at Church
By Jim Burns
John and Donna are cousins. Their families have similar involvement at church. Both were active in their high school, received good grades, had lots of friends, made commitments to Christ at the same age, and attended the same church.
Today, John is an active leader in the Church. Donna dropped out after high school. What happened? Of course there are theological reasons, but I'll let the theologians work through those explanations. My answer is less complicated, but just as important: Involvement. John was involved with his ministry; Donna was a spectator.
Experiencing vs. Spectating
Many youth group leaders believe they have to entertain their group to have a successful program. Wrong! Young people must experience the work of Christ if they are to grow in their faith. For example, we can never just talk about missions and expect our young people to understand. Kids need to experience mission first hand; and it doesn't have to be a short-term trip to a foreign country. Organize local outreaches with your teens. It could be as simple as painting a widow's house, working at a rescue mission, or visiting a rest home.
Servanthood vs. Looking Out for No. 1
Our society is concerned with: "What's in it for me?" On the other hand, Christ calls His people to serve. We must instill a sense of servanthood in our young people. The ones who find the joy of serving stay committed to their childhood faith.
Community vs. Individualism
We need to teach and practice a sense of community in our youth groups. Young people will stay in the church because they are drawn into the community by faith. They were socialized into a community that affects their actions, beliefs, attitudes and values, even their dating habits.
How can you develop a stronger sense of involvement in your youth? You must see yourself as a Discipler, Enabler, and Model.
If you see your role as that of a teacher, a dispenser of knowledge, you don't have high enough goals. To nurture youth involvement, use the method Paul suggested to Timothy: "and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be, able to teach others also" (II Timothy 2:2). Discipleship is a character-building relationship that challenges people to take what they have been given by our Lord and give it to others.
Youth workers who desire to see long-lasting results must see themselves as enablers. One of the most difficult areas of ministry for many youth workers is the area of delegation. The I-will-do-it-all mentality might be great for the smoothness of the program, but it can be horrible for growth in the lives of your kids. Always look for ways to train and equip your young people.
When it comes to delegating, Dave Stone's "Four Phases of Ease" is really helpful:
 I it and you watch.
 I do it and you do it.
 You do it and I watch/assist.
 You do it and I'll do something else.
As you enable your young people to do the actual work of the ministry, the results will be evident in their enthusiasm for their faith.
Kids find heroes among musicians, film stars, and pro athletes whose lifestyles are contrary to Scripture. When it comes to the faith, kids also imitate their leaders. That's why ministry that emphasizes relationships is so important. The best way to model the faith is through a consistently open and honest lifestyle. There is possibly nothing more fulfilling than watching your young people respond to Christ's call, become involved, and continue to mature as Christians. The time and energy you invest in your young people is well worth it.
Ideas for Involvement
- Peer Ministry: This can be a wonderful way for your youth group to minister to the entire church and other churches as well.
- Tutoring: Set up a time where kids can come to church for tutoring help from others in the group. Open up this service to the community.
- Teaching and sharing: Train your young people to teach the lesson or share their faith in the youth group. The credibility factor with their peers will produce solid ministry.
- Photograph and media: Appoint a youth group photographer. Sometimes this is the perfect ministry for a handicapped person or one of the unpopular kids.
- Caravan Ministry: Each year, hundreds of youth groups put on ministry-oriented programs while traveling from church to church.
- Social Service: Allow your kids the privilege of serving some of the older saints in your church and community. Visit lonely patients in the hospital. Help at a children's hospital.
- Hunger: Sponsor a child from one of the many outstanding relief agencies. You can always help out at the local soup kitchen or Salvation Army.
- Prison: Most prison ministries have a letter-writing program for inmates. Just be sure that an adult mentors a teen through this process.
- Work Camps: This is one of the most outstanding ways to let kids serve God. As young people work hard, whether it be painting, building or cleaning, they see the results of their ministry.
- Family Night: Sponsor a family night at your church where the youth group designs the program.
- Parents Update: Write a newsletter to the parents perhaps once every quarter sharing information about the youth group.
- Growth Booklet: Your youth group can sponsor a time where the family can participate in a Christian education experience together.
- Intergenerational Sunday School: Periodically, develop a Sunday morning program that includes all generations and let your youth group take an active lead in planning and preparing the presentation.
- Family Camp Out: Let the youth group plan a special camp out and be responsible for the program.
- Teaching Sunday School: On occasion, give all the Sunday School teachers the day off and let the youth group put on a program for the kids or teach the Sunday School lessons.
- Big Brother/Big Sister: This is an effective ministry your youth can have with some of the young generation in your church.
- Day Camp: Let the youth group run a day camp for the younger kids this summer.
- Youth in Leadership Positions: Have some of your leaders sit in on some of the decision-making committees in your church.
- Clean-Up Day: Sponsor a special day where the youth group takes on a special project at the church.
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