To present some general ideas for youth ministry.
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To reach teenagers effectively is to understand them and to reach them where they are in their daily lives. To do this, one must be in touch with oneself and with the youth culture today. To be in touch with yourself means to be able to be unpreoccupied with yourself, both as you were as a teen and as you are now, and to be able to focus on kids. To know them, to interact with them, and to love them where are all necessary keys for being able to meet the needs of kids and help them rise above a controlling culture.
To be in touch with the culture is to listen to it, to study it, and to understand it-for them, not for yourself. It is at this point that you will be able to help teens conciously choose what values they want to adopt for themselves and what values of the culture are not for them and should be released.
The underlying base for all this is to let a teen feel that we, as youth ministers, love them. It is important that they more than know that: it must be felt. Understanding, acceptance, and compassion must be able to ease their way into a teen and then nurture the best qualities and talents that the Lord has placed in him or her.
So, youth ministry is relational, just like Christianity is relational. There is no need of great intellectual power to conquer the teen world. Just exhibit the characteristics that Christ showed-his attitude and mind that we are to strive for as his followers.
RESOURCES AND IDEAS ON STUDYING THE YOUTH CULTURE
Focus on the things that teens focus on. Their culture is comprised of the same institutions as the adult culture: media (all varieties), school, church, and others. Understand how these institutions reach and affect teens. Watch TV with a kid''s eye. Watch TV with kids. Look at advertisements. What are they saying? What are they selling, even beyond their product? How do you see this reflected in teens? Keeping an open mind, this is where you start. Adults-who have set values and lifestyles-tend to shut out undesirable and unacceptable things.
Start a file of key words that relate to teens'' needs and issues; clip articles from magazines, newspapers, and other resources that speak to these key issues of youth. This helps monitor the trends of youth culture today. And it offers a better understanding of what the secular world is thinking and accepting as a value system and is transmitting as "okay" for teens. If young people do not have higher goals set for themselves, they will achieve only the goals and values set for them by the world''s standards. This is natural and understandable. Youth workers must accept responsibility for it unless we are working to help teens rise above it. In other words, help teens control their culture, rather than allow their culture to control them.
There are several youth worker-oriented publications that support the youth minister working in the trenches. This list is by no means exhaustive. It is only a beginning:
- Group magazine has sections for leaders and kids. It provides trending tips of the youth today, clever ideas for youth meetings to explore teen music, advertising, and even behavioral situations kids find themselves in today. This is a periodical that is current and relates to today''s kids.
- Junior High Ministry, is also published by Group magazine. This is the only periodical that the author knows of that focuses totally on the junior high age, and doing it well. It has the same attributes as its sister magazine, Group.
- Youthworker Journal, is a quarterly periodical written entirely for the youth worker. It has a different theme each quarter and addresses it thoroughly. It integrates the topic for both the youth and the youth worker, and does it effectively. Past subjects include apathy, suicide, and outreach.
Curriculum is always a challenging topic because it has to do with individual styles and preferences. It is important to develop a style which is comfortable for the youth worker but not too simplistic for the teens. Kids need to be challenged and youth workers should accept that they themselves may not have all the answers. Remember that a youth worker is a guest in a young person''s culture; the young person does not expect or want the youth worker to have all the answers. They desire understanding and love. What follows are some suggestions that have been effectively used with kids.
The following are just a couple of suggestions of curriculum (there are numerous excellent choices) that approach subjects and issues facing kids today and how, through their faith, they can grow:
- The YouthBuilders series, by Jim Burns, consists of twelve different studies. These issues range from prayer and the devotional life to family. The series is in a workbook format and is excellent for teen interaction.
- Group Publishing''s Core Beliefs, delves into 24 essential foundations, such as worship, personal character, and the nature of God. This resource is very practical and interactive. A very effective style of teaching from the Bible is through inductive study. This consists of observing, interpreting, and applying the text. Teens respond well because they learn how to study Scripture and extract from the text what God is saying to them. This practice is relevant and foundational for a teen''s faith, because they are learning how to interact with Scripture and God for themselves.
Media serve as instant grabbers and attracters. Using radio, TV, magazines, movies, and videos allows youth workers to "play on the kids'' turf." Kids are more comfortable discussing issues ushered in through an appropriate medium. Popular TV shows and movie clips offer great discussion starters. It is easy to lead a discussion through or about the media, but realize that the youth worker is the facilitator-not the lecturer. Select the media carefully and know the subject being addressed; the kids will develop the rest of the discussion.
Music is an effective method of teaching, too. Let the group discuss the lyrics to decide if they approve of the meesage that is being communicated through the song. Youth leaders glean wonderful insight into young people using this method: kids may need to strengthen or change their values. Music discussions provide excellent information to develop a curriculum which addresses the issues from a Christian perspective. Initially attracting young people through their beloved media wins both their interest and respect because the youth leader is perceived as accepting of the young people and has refrained from becoming preachy and condemning.
The youth culture is full of many resources that can be adapted and applied to youth ministry. This teens respect. They want somebody to understand them and their culture. Most of all, they want and need to be loved and accepted. They want to share themselves with someone who cares and is open-not critical and closed. They need help understanding and discerning their culture to reap the best from it.
Anne Montague and Michael J. Powers cCYS