In part one, we looked at some principles of raising adults who champion teens. You can read it here.
What Does an Adult Who Champions Teens Look Like?
If we’re to raise adults who champion teens, we need to know what we’re trying to raise or build towards. What are the outcomes or goals that we’re wanting to develop? Here’s an example of what these outcomes could be, though there are certainly more in each area:
An adult who champions teens is someone who…
- Values young people as vital members of the church of God today
- Believes ministry is meant to be with teens not just “to” or “for” them.
- Feels called to champion youth because youth can do meaningful ministry
- Has skills in encouraging and supporting teen leadership
- Understands that teens need opportunities to serve in ways more than just babysitting or stacking chairs, but that they have individual gifts that need to be developed and encouraged
- Regularly asks the question, “What am I doing that I could either do with some youth or that I could train them to do themselves?”
- Prays for youth individually and specifically
Practical Steps for Raising Adults Who Champion Teens
Now that we’ve talked about the principles (what is this) and the outcomes (what does this look like), let’s dive into some practical steps (how can we accomplish this). These are just a few ideas, but hopefully they will spark even more ideas that are specific to your context:
Involve your board/committees.
This is not just something that the youth leaders do but should be congregation-wide. Involve the other board or committees or other groups, depending on how your church is structured, in the process. Coach each board to identify 1 way that they can do ministry with youth in the next calendar year. For example, your Board of Missions is challenged to find a way that they can involve young people in their efforts, so they decide to partner with your women’s group and the youth ministry. Perhaps they are doing on a “freezer meal” ministry where your women’s group works with the teenagers to prepare freezer meals that can be grabbed by anyone in the congregation to give to someone in need (after a surgery, death of a loved one, adoption of a child, etc.). The teens could be involved in this by actually helping with the cooking, picking the recipes, and maybe even doing some deliveries of meals afterwards.
How did this great intergenerational opportunity come about? Instead of the women’s group or missions board doing the event on their own, someone decided to champion teens and say, “Our youth can serve in this way! Let’s partner with them!” When each group begins to think this way, there will quickly be a plethora of places to connect your youth in service and ministry because I firmly believe that once people ask the question once a year, they’ll begin to ask that question all the time: “How can we involve the youth in this ministry?”
Think about individuals not just “the youth group.”
The previous example is a great example of connecting the whole youth group into a project or ministry, but you also want to be thinking of ways to champion individuals based on their unique gifts and abilities. “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27). Part of the issue in the transition out of youth group is that youth are oftentimes treated collectively rather than individually. The result is that when they’re no longer apart of the youth group, they don’t know where to plug in as an individual. This is something that needs to be fostered during the teenage years.
One of the best ways that adults can champion teens is to recognize their gifts, celebrate them, and then find ways to get them connected. A sophomore that shows gifts in teaching others can serve as an aide in a Sunday School class, being mentored towards actually teaching the class themselves. A junior who has a mature faith could be mentored to lead the opening devotion for a board meeting or even a voter’s meeting. A freshman who’s gifted in art could be asked to make a graphic or logo for a sermon series or upcoming event. A senior who recently won an award for leadership can be celebrated and acknowledged at your church picnic.
Shoot for this goal: for each individual in your youth ministry to be connected to the church in 3 ways: worship service, youth group, and 1 other way (like in music, service, leadership, etc.). Adults who champion teens look for those opportunities for every young person. Think of the longevity that is built when you do that and continue to help youth stay connected in those ways even after they graduate high school!
Celebrate your teens!
Think about how you highlight your youth ministry to the congregation. Oftentimes it’s just “hey, we have these fun things coming up” and then afterwards you tell how many kids came and apologize for the mess that was made. Instead, take those opportunities to show how God is working in and through your teens. Get quotes from some youth from the last event and use that in your next bulletin. Show pictures of youth in action. Have your pastor use examples and stories of your youth in action for an upcoming sermon rather than just sharing stories of faithful adults. Have a youth rather than an adult leader share the announcement about the upcoming event. Make this your goal: I want the congregation to know, like I do, what great young people we have here!
The best way you can champion teens is by letting them lead, allowing them to give input, and inviting them to the table to use their gifts in service to their Lord. An adult who champions teens focuses on that- how they can partner with young people and get them connected throughout the life of the congregation.