Saturday, December 18, 2010

    GREAT YOUTH MINISTRY IDEA: Create Safe Space for Teens Who Don't Want to Be at Church

    Once in awhile you come across an article you wish you'd written yourself ...and you're also glad someone else beat you to it! Such is the case with this article by Neil Christopher at the Evolitionist blog. Speaking in his role as an ELCA youth minister, Neil argues that those of us working with teens in the Church may need to be more sensitive to the rights and needs of those youth who really don't want to be there:


    What I’m talking about here is creating safe places and environments for kids that come into our care or across our paths who seemingly or who actually want nothing to do with us; the genuine seekers who have many walls, the ones who were dragged in by a friend, and the ones who were forced to come by a parent or guardian. How do we interact with these kids?

    I have memories to this day that still rub me the wrong way of my own experiences in youth groups. Leaders belittling me and my friends; forcing us to participate in things we did feel comfortable with; making me stand during worship songs when I was just there as a seeker; making me sing and even pray when my heart was not ready for it; even rudely jabbing my back, grabbing my arms, and ripping hats off my head. Do we treat adults this way during worship?


    What Neil is arguing here is responding to the unique needs of youth who probably want nothing to do with religion.  Neil is careful to say that we should attend to these youth -- not because doing so might eventually add them to our list of converts -- but because they deserve the same respect and love as the youth who can't wait to get to youth group each week. 
    I'm sure for some Neil's perspective will be controversial.  He certainly has given me food for thought, particularly as it relates to the teens in my Sunday morning Christian education class who only seem to enjoy the Sundays when we meet up at the local coffee house. 
    Read the rest of the article and let him know what you think.

    3 comments:

    wayhip said...

    I think the best approach is to treat those "seekers" and "non-seekers" as you would guests in your home. If we're going to practice the ministry of hospitality (and want these folks to visit again) we need to bend over backwards to make them feel welcome. It's one thing to have an expectation that these guests be reverent and respectful. But teaching reverence and respect in any fashion other than gentle welcoming is counterproductive.

    zachlavalley said...

    Agreed. I think it's often a territorial mindset. Like, "You're at my church so you will submit to whatever situation I decide to put you in." But instead of having a posture of compulsion, we would do well to have one of hospitality, as wayhip said.

    zachlavalley said...

    Agreed. I think it's often a territorial mindset. Like, "You're at my church so you will submit to whatever situation I decide to put you in." But instead of having a posture of compulsion, we would do well to have one of hospitality, as wayhip said.