For the longest time now, we the youth workers of America have been hearing about the mass exodus of former students walking away from their faith as soon as they graduate high school. It’s ok to not believe what the statistics are telling you. It’s fine to justify or even make excuses for those the statistics represent. It’s even ok to believe them whole heartedly. It’s not ok to stop being strategic about how helping your current students engage with their faith. This is where you, the person who cares about these students, comes in. How you do what you do is a big deal and plays a huge role in the faith journey of the students that walk through your doors.
Now lets be honest, a young persons faith journey doesn’t ride or die on you the youth worker. However, you can play a pivotal role in helping them understand and embrace the faith in Jesus they currently are trying to own.
Here are 3 things you can bring to your youth ministry that will help beat the odds of your students walking away from the church:
1. Student Focus
I know that was the most underwhelming first point of all time. If there is no purpose behind what you are currently doing then you are not focused on students. Being FOCUSED means that you have a method to your madness and why you do what you do and how you do it are strategic and thought through.
What are you teaching through during your year?
What events are you planning and putting energy towards and how are those events setting up essential spiritual conversations?
Do you have a context for students to have a safe place to ask questions, be immersed in faith shaping conversations?
Are you providing resources or helping students engage with scripture?
Is there a way for students to explore and dive deeper with various spiritual disciplines?
Is fun happening?
Are your students seeing faith lived out multi-generationally?
All of those questions are important to ask yourself and maybe go back to the drawing board if there are holes to be filled. You might want to consider using a curriculum that helps you be strategic, if thats not your strong suit. Kenny & Elle at Stuff You Can Use have “Grow Curriculum” that is incredible, the good people at Orange have some amazing resources for you as well. Get focused on your students!
2. Help Them Give Up
No silly, not give up on life or their faith. Help them give up themselves. The quicker a teenager can begin thinking about others first, the closer they are to the heart of Jesus. Teenagers that are engaged in serving within the walls of the church or in their community are growing in their faith. They are learning what it looks like to be the hands and feet of Jesus. As they serve, they need you to help them contextualize it. They need you to help them see they bigger picture behind their serving and how It ties back into the narrative of scripture. Teenagers serving also gets them around other adults that will care about their faith journey as well which leads us to #3.
3. Subway Time
Yes, I do believe that the slogan “eat fresh” isn’t really accurate. Teenagers need to be shoved into a small trolley with other adults and other generations that share the same faith. If you have ever ridden in a subway you know that sometimes you cant help but smell like the lady next to you that wore too much perfume. Teenagers have to see faith in Jesus lived out in various stages and the more they are around those adults the more that will rub off on them. There is a statistic out there that talks about every teenager needs 5 caring adults to speak life, love and encouragement into their life when it comes to their faith for them to own their faith as they move into adult hood. Are you creating “subway” moments for your students?
Do whatever you can with whatever time you have left with the students you shepherd! Be focused, help students give up & get them some subway time with other caring adults!