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Nov 17

Simple ways to integrate young people into your church

How is your church when it comes to mixing the generations together? It can be a blockage for many churches as it seems that we are trying to fulfil the impossible dream. Instead, we create specific ministries for different age groups, with the hope that as long as everyone is engaged somewhere in the life of the church, people will stay connected to the church, as a concept, if not in genuine relationship.

integrate at the piano

Simple ways to integrate young people into your church

The reality, and the research, shows that this is not working.Young people don’t want to be part of an organisation. They want to feel connected. This is a very connected generation (has there ever been one which isn’t?). They stay if they feel a sense of belonging, and they leave as soon as this feeling breaks down.

The good news is that having a genuine, cross-generation, integrated church is not impossible or particularly difficult. It does require us to be intentional, however, as integration won’t just happen. I want to suggest five simple ways to achieve this. Each idea will take some imagination and thought, but none of them requires a huge amount of extra work. Be creative!

1. Involve young people in Sunday services

Young people love interaction. They are not used to sitting quietly for a long period of time and merely listening. So what can you do to involve them in the course of a service? The good news is there is nothing that goes on in a typical Sunday worship service that you could not ask a teenager to help with; gift, talent and personality dependent. Think through every aspect of your roots and explore where a young person could help. Ask some to welcome people at the door. Involve them in the music and audio/visual provision. Ask them to lead a time of prayer or to read the Bible aloud. Ask some to make a video on a theme to show during the worship. You could even ask one person to share the preaching slot. The key to all these is not to ask them to do it alone but to get them serving alongside the adults already in these roles. As they serve together, they make connection with one another and grow in mutual respect for each other. However, the adult has to treat the teenager as an equal, not as a child who we need to protect or give simpler tasks to. Where there is mutual respect, appreciation and love can grow.

2. Serve together in mission

Taking this a step further, involve young people in whatever ways the church is trying to reach out to the community. Most churches do at least a few activities throughout the course of the year to either reach out to the community or to welcome them into the church building. This might be a mission event, an outdoor service, a light party event or a traditional church fair. Involve young people in the planning, preparation and running of these events. If you want genuine generational interaction, don’t get the youth group to run one part of the project, but mix them all up so they are all working with adults. We get to know each other much more quickly when we do something together. It also creates shared memories and a shared history.

3. Share meals together

Food is a real relationship builder so use it at every opportunity to help the generations mix. Get some young people involved with some adults to prepare the meal and to serve. Arrange the seating so that people can sit in families, or in a way that people don’t just sit with people they know. You could put young people to sit in pairs, and make sure that opposite them are people they don’t know. Try putting on the table questions which they might like to discuss with those around them. This can be useful as often both young people and older people wonder what they might have in common to talk about. Providing questions to discuss takes away any awkward silences.

4. Create purposeful connections

You do need to be purposeful in helping people who wouldn’t naturally mix, to get to know each other. Here’s an idea you might like to try. Have an evening where a group of young people can get to know the older members of your fellowship. It could involve a quiz where some questions only the young people would be able to answer, and some questions only the older people could answer. By mixing the teams, they start to listen to each other and realise that they need each other to succeed in the quiz. You could then pair up an adult with a teenager and give them some questions to ask each other. There is great resource already created by YouthMinistry.com with a list of questions that could be use. You can download it here. You could give them a piece of card each in the shape of a bookmark and ask them to write the name of their partner at the top. Then to jot down a few key facts about their partner e.g. their family situation, their job or school, and then a couple of things they could pray for over the next few months. Each person takes these bookmarks away and commit to pray for each other regularly. This helps both generations realise that everyone has needs and it builds mutual reliance on each other and God.

 

The truth is that being intentional about integrating young people into our wider church family is not an optional extra. Research shows that they will walk away from the church, and possibly their faith, if they don’t make genuine connection with different age groups. The great hope is that young people can inspire us to be more alive in our own faith, as they set the example to us of how to give our all to following Jesus. We just need to heed Paul’s warning to Timothy (1 Timothy 4:12) that we must not join others in ‘looking down on young people’, of thinking we have all the answers, but rather that we are sharing a journey of faith together and building his church together.

Have you tried anything to help integrate young people into your church? Please share in the comments section below anything you have tried which has worked well.