To build a commitment we must start with involving adults and helping to guide them. They need to see the joy of participation, how their faith will help them, receive training, and find ways to keep them excited about their involvement. When an activity recharges both the adult and young person, it is going to take off like wild fire, and others will come.
In order to gain in youth ministry, communication regarding youth ministry throughout the Church and local community is essential. It is difficult to be recruited and/or to consider volunteering oneself into a commitment if it is considered disorganized, too vague, or its value is unknown. Efforts in on-going, consistent, and broad communication must be considered as the preliminary work of recruitment.
Furthermore, great care should be taken to avoid a sense of exclusivity. We are called to service by our baptism and involvement in the faith community. There is little that limits one’s involvement with young people. There is no great litmus test other than one’s personal interest, and the urgings of the Spirit. Age should not matter; no one is too young or too old. Parents should not be excluded, and should be considered valuable partners.
Great care should be taken to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4: 11-12) as we train others into ministry. We must make efforts to ensure that we neither exploit nor allow others to take advantage of the young people in our care and trust. There should always be some level of training regarding child protection, and a safe environment. That seems like a terrible starting point, but there have been enough cautionary tales from our own Church communities, as well as settings such as Penn State. Youth safety demands our attention, and it should be taken seriously.
When it comes to the mindset of adults who wish to help with youth ministry the criteria are rather simple and very precise. They should:
> Be willing to be living witnesses to what it means to be disciples of Jesus Christ by doing good works, and proclaiming their motivations to do so.
As for the part of the Church, we must provide opportunities and support so one might lead a prayer or discussion with confidence. Combine those two things together, and you have a combination that is going to inspire young people to explore their faith more deeply. They may move slowly on the journey, but as long as they are moving in the correct direction it is absolutely positive.
Another vital skill to help with is one that many people feel they have, but sometimes fall short on. That skill is listening. Helping adults learn to be good listeners is important. They need to be attentive toward witnessing for the lives of young people, and equipped to be a friendly ear in times of need. This step must come first before they step into being an affirmer and encourager to young people, helping them make positive decisions with their lives. Adults in youth ministry should also be capable of, and comfortable with, referring a young person to resources if needed to confront decisions that have led to regrets.
Over time, make it a goal to collaborate with adults so that they might be able to develop their own personal plan of formation. Guide them toward valuable resources such as books, websites, training, and conferences that will help improve their youth ministry skills. Talk about how their example as a mature person of faith always comes in to play and that while they have rapport with the kids they are also spiritual role models. For those within denominational churches, they should increase awareness of the distinctiveness of their own faith identity.
In terms of maintaining the involvement of adults, investment in training and spiritual formation will play a big role. Finding ways to consistently recognize and celebrate their contributions will be significant. Embrace the opportunity to communicate with them, and about them by expressing that they are being celebrated home in both your community and Church. This will inspire, motivate, and engage them to pass along the generosity and grace that they have experienced with participating in youth ministry on an active level.
As we live out our discipleship in the Lord through youth ministry we must realize that our outreach must expand beyond just young people. It also needs to be directed toward those who will make a difference in young people’s lives…regardless by their active interest. Mother Teresa once wrote about an AIDS hospice her religious order ran in New York. It was there that she discovered firsthand the difference that committed adults could make in the lives of young people. She said:
“What a tremendous change has been brought about in their lives just because of a few sisters who take care of them and make a home for them!
A home of love!
A gift of love!
A place, perhaps the only place, where they feel loved, where they are somebody to someone. This has changed their lives that they die a most beautiful death. Not one of them has yet to die in distress.”
May we all be blessed with the words and actions to engage adults in the same manner so that they may celebrate young people home, and into beautiful lives of discipleship.
For Discussion: How can we improve our efforts regarding communication in youth ministry – – Not only with young people but top expand our efforts throughout the whole Church? Please comment below with your critique clarifications, and responses. <image source>
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