Top 7 tips to engage the next generation
We all know the rhetoric; the number of those identifying as religious is declining. But that’s not the whole picture. Just take a look at the recent Hillsong Conference or, closer to home, Uniting Church’s very own Yurόra. At both of those events were people of all ages, especially the youth, who still have a spiritual hunger.
Here lies an opportunity for Congregations to make a committed investment into youth ministry as an essential part of growing the church. I know you’ve heard it all before that the youth are the future and engaging the next generation is easier said than done. Yes, it’s no easy task but building a faith community where youth leaders can flourish, can be done.
This is not about becoming the next celebrity church. Far from it. The ultimate goal should be to bring the Good News to as many people as possible and create a safe space where youth can experience the Word and love of God. It is also about creating an environment where people can question and discern their spiritual journey.
Here are a few refresher tips for engaging the next generation.
- Enabling youth to serve
Giving the opportunity for youth to have an active role in church services might be as simple as putting the chairs out or assisting with after-church refreshments. Members can also help with the live streaming of the service and pulling together media resources (e.g short films, web faith series). Church is more than sitting in a pew; it is about community being built through faith. Youth group sessions where people are able to discuss scripture, as well as being able to voice their opinions, allows for the Church to grow and adapt in today’s society.
Identify those in the Congregation who are willing to be active leaders of youth outreach initiatives and ministry. It can take just one person’s enthusiasm and then the support of the church to create a space where youth can feel welcome, and able to question their faith understanding. Taking the lead does not mean to be closed off from guidance; this is where mentorship comes in.
Mentorships create avenues where future leaders can emerge. Again, it is recognising talents — asking what can the individuals offer to the community and in what capacity. It is also helping young faith leaders link scripture to everyday life, in turn building a better understanding of their spirituality that they are then able to share with others.
4. Music collaboration
Music is a powerful source of worship. It provides a creative outlet to praise God. This can be through choir, instrumental or song writing and is another way to connect those in youth ministry with their faith on a deeper level.
If youth numbers are low in your local Congregation, something to try is creating connections with local schools and universities. Collaborations on social justice initiatives is what Uniting Church does well. Getting the wider community involved is a great way to showcase ministry at work. However, it doesn’t stop there; don’t be afraid to say that this is what I believe and Jesus is here for you too.
6. Be the culture you want to see
Enthusiasm and energy is infectious and can revitalise a church community. This is not necessarily determined by the average age of church members. Often Congregations with older members are the most energetic, especially when it comes to volunteering and other community outreach initiatives. If the culture of the church has stagnated, be the positive change you want to see and watch the community transform.
7. Remember the most important message
God sent us Jesus with the message of ultimate love and redemption. This is the Good News and this is most important. As congregations look to engage the next generation, at the basis of every initiative should be this message — as it is the most powerful and transformative.
“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” (1 John 4:9)
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