Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What do you do at Youth in UDLC or"INSERT CLEVER TITLE HERE"!

So people sometimes ask in one way or another, "what do you do at youth group"? or "when does the youth group meet"? Well I am never sure how to answer that and I will explain why.

About 9 years ago another youth worker introduced me to the concept that "YOUTH GROUP" could be seen by some as a cliques and some youth may feel odd about trying to come check it out. I found this interesting but thought, church kids don't really do that...BUT THEN I SAW THEY DO AND SO DO THE ADULTS IN YOUTH MINISTRY!

I started to see teens would be open to new people, but then would sit in groups and not always include new people. Not intentionally, but because the idea for some kids was "THESE ARE MY FRIENDS". So when I moved churches in 2004, I wanted to make sure as I worked to rebuild the youth program looking to make all feel welcome.

Now, many adults think that all youth groups are welcoming places and often people don't see it like a youth outsider when we are inside. From the outside people see smiling laughing teens and adults and they think. WHAT A GREAT YOUTH MINISTRY AT THIS CHURCH! Yet a teenager can see a place where everyone is already in a place and they are not sure where they would fit in and being the new kid is hard, like it can be for adults who are in the same place when the family joins.

In UDLC we have what we call SUNDAY NIGHT AT CHURCH. You come, hang out, play games, eat snacks. Sometimes it is 10 people sometimes it is 5. More often than not, there is a 1 to 1 youth to adult ratio. Yet, the laughter and smiles don't seem in anyway diminished. That is because it is SUPER CASUAL. I mean, when people show up we all figure out what to do. Sometimes it is Apples to Apples and others it is just listening to music and looking up odd youtube videos.

We also have Lock In's where friends are welcome and we encourage youth to bring friends who are of any faith. Why? Because what better way to be closer friends then to meet your church family, see what worship is like for your family, and just get to know people you may never have before. Last year we even invited the teens from our refugee family and they were a catalyst that got everyone involved in the TWISTER tournament. They broke down walls of other teens in ways adults can't. they wanted to know them and talk and from that point through our LION KING viewing, everyone laughed, talked, and just were together.

Our Mission trip each summer is usually always attended by one youth who is not a member. People will ask me why I would give this spot away and I often point to the fact that we have non member youth more involved then youth who's family are members. I don't try to defend who is going, I let people think about the group going and if someone feels called to go, why should we tell them no, if there is a spot open? Every year these groups come back even stronger and I now have college students looking to go this summer, who go with their college campus groups, and who look for other service while away at school.

I don't want to make it seem like what we do is right or wrong. It is what works best for our church. It is what keeps people coming and teens at church building relationships. I will also point out, that this was not overnight. I have been doing this 7 years and for some groups 7 years is still a newbie. Will this work for 7 more years? I don't know, but what I do know is that I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE!

Are you new to UDLC? Did you visit and want to know more about us? Shoot me a message on facebook or email me @ raymondhopkins@comcast.net and I would love to tell you more. I am sitting in diner in Oreland, PA waiting for a Synod Youth Ministry meeting and look forward to working with other youth workers who if I do the math correctly have approximately 80 years of experience between us and yet at times this never seems like enough. We just do what we think God is calling us to do and hope we stay humble enough.

What do you think of when you think of Youth Ministry?

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