Recently, our youth group doubled from 10 to 20 young people. Over the same period the number of people helping reduced from four to three and one of those three wants to stand down. I felt a bit out of my depth so booked on a day’s course that the Diocese put on called “Cracking Youthwork”. I’m so glad that I did – I came back feeling encouraged, energised and more equipped for the task. I learned a few things that really helped me:
- Everyone finds youth work challenging.
- Kids don’t want leaders who are cool – they get enough of that at school.
- People of any and every age can be youth leaders – it isn’t just for the young and often older people are better.
- What kids want more than anything is to be loved and included in the fellowship of the church.
- We are phenomenally lucky in this Parish to have so many youth interested in the church.
- Non-paid volunteer helpers with the youth are much more effective than a paid youth worker.
There was a statistic from some research into church youth work that blew me away: If the youth group has only two people from the church helping who “have to” eg (the youth worker and the vicar) then a youth group of 10 will keep one young person in church into their 20s and beyond. If the youth group has four or five non-parental adults helping then a youth group of 10 will keep 8 young people in church into their 20s and beyond. Youth know if people “have to” be there, but when older people from the congregation choose to be there then they know it is that the older people genuinely care about them and are a genuine spiritual family for them. Thinking back, I became a Christian through the Youth ministry of a church, but in particular through the love and care of a couple in their thirties who had three small children. They loved me sacrificially through the most difficult years of my life, and helped me go from a very dark place to a place where I was journeying towards the Light. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that I owe my life to that couple. I was also included into the church which was a bog-standard Anglican church and I was a foul-mouthed and very broken teenager, it didn’t seem like a natural marriage but it worked and I was loved back to a degree of wholeness. I was probably an extreme case, but being a teenager is tricky for almost everyone! If you are a regular worshipping member of the congregation and have a heart for young people then perhaps youth ministry is for you. Even serving a glass of squash and a biscuit is of great value, or sitting alongside a young person and asking about their week. In years to come you might find that your word of kindness to a young person may be more valuable than you ever imagined.