I love racquetball! You know the sport: Two, three, or four people crowd into a tiny, all-white room, each wielding a deadly weapon also known as a racquet. Then each one strikes a blue, unsuspecting ball with such violent force that if it hits anyone else within the itty-bitty game room, a welt the size of Alaska immediately emerges. For information’s sake, welts to the back, buttocks, and face are most common in this exciting game of racquetball. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?
But guess when racquetball really isn’t fun: That’s right…when you are playing alone. When playing racquetball alone, you’re not playing anything. Alone, in a teeny-weenie white room with a racquet is missing only two items from the funny farm: a straight jacket and padded walls. The adventure comes when you play racquetball with a group of people. In fact, the more the merrier! Oh sure, when alone you can work on hitting your angles, become comfortable with digging shots out of the corners, or just get some exercise; but racquetball was meant to be played in a group.
I believe God’s intention for youth programs in your local congregation is the same. Most things, in general, are more fun to do with a group of people; at least with one other friend or family member. Take the following activities for example: A cross country road trip, a picnic, a ride in a canoe, shopping, watching a movie while sharing an enormous bucket of popcorn, tennis, going to a concert, riding a roller coaster, dancing the tango, rock climbing, watching fireworks, going to a baseball game, eating a holiday dinner, tossing a football, and eating s’mores around a campfire. All of these activities are typically more fun to do with someone else. Your youth programs are more fun when carried out with several people, too.
As each young person walks into your youth room, the opportunity and possibility of connection and relationship building increases. Assuming your youth group consists of more than one person, why should you care about the quality of your group’s dynamics? Here’s why: Honesty, openness, and a caring community makes your youth group become more of a youth family. Obviously, your natural family supports, encourages, trains, teaches, loves, and cares for each member. The youth group could learn a lot from a Christ-centered family.
But why stop there? Is there a youth board in your church? Are they a part of the youth group? Are they a part of the youth family? Do the members of the youth board pray with actual youth, hand in hand? Do they go out to dinner once a month with a few youth at a time? Do they invite the youth into their homes for pizza and board games? Do they go to youth basketball, football, or volleyball game once a month? Do they study God’s Word with youth on a regular basis? All of these activities can enhance the nature of the youth group within your church’s four walls.
Finally, here’s a bold thought that might stretch the views of even broad-minded youth: Are they acting like members of the larger church group? Do youth view themselves as a valuable part of their congregation or only as members of the youth group? Do their actions say, “This is my church and I am the church of today! I am part of this group!” Or, do they subconsciously have the mindset that says, “Someday I’ll be an active member of the congregation. For now, I’m just a member of the youth group.” Here are several questions that might help youth to answer the question: Do you tithe? Is that little box full of offering envelopes still full? Do you serve God on a committee in your congregation? Do you occasionally read the lessons, collect offering, usher or serve on altar guild? Do you serve as an acolyte because it’s part of the confirmation program or because it’s your congregation and you desire to serve God through your gifts? If you answer yes to even a couple of these questions, then you probably understand that you belong to a group that is greater and larger than simply your youth group.
Anyone, and I mean anyone, can get a youth group organized. Find at least two youth between the ages of 12 17, stick them in a room together and you immediately have a youth group. What you don’t have is a youth community. Challenge yourself to be a part of something great: A youth family. That, obviously, takes more work, but the rewards will speak for themselves. Demand more! You’ll see the results.
Published April 2006