Written by:
Kelly Peterson-Cruse

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Growing Up Together

How many times have we heard adults and young people reflecting on their time in church, say “Oh we grew up together in Youth Group” or “We watched those young people grow up together”?  But, how do you know those years together made an impact in which they grew and matured in their faith?  How do you know that your ministries have created life- long followers of Jesus Christ?  The impact of your ministry has to go beyond your former youth being connected on social media. 

  • Connection- Have the adults in your church made “real” connections with your youth?  Or have you measured the success of the ministries with youth by the numbers that show up for events?  The authors in “Growing Young” state their research found that  churches that committed 5 adults to each young person starting in 3rd grade and continuing through high school had the most significant influences on young people’s connection and continuation in the church beyond high school.  These committed adults show up at “life events” (awards ceremonies, performances, graduation and sporting events); they have authentic conversations with them that ask open ended questions and provide opportunities for real dialogue and truly knowing these young people. The young people have solid Christian role models and mentors outside of their immediate families.   How much better is that than a “random” care package that shows up from the church ladies when they go to college?
  • Prayer- Have you helped your youth to develop a LIFE of prayer?  This is not just modeling prayer in a prayer circle where we say “be in an attitude of prayer”.   It has to be beyond “asking” for things to happen or change; it is the practice of silence to hear God, it’s prayers of thanksgiving, it’s the daily conversations and interaction a person of faith should have with God, and including God in all situations. I highly recommend “Praying in the Messiness of Life” by Linda Douty, which provides a road map to develop and renew your life of prayer.
  • Inclusion- Time and time again you hear “dump Youth Sunday”. What impacts youth as they “grow up” together is being a part of the life of the church; rather than isolation and limited inclusion on special days or events.  Your youth should be in worship, participate in worship, sitting with the congregation rather than huddled in the back staring at their screens.  Use your time together to explain and educate them on the elements and parts of worship, and what they mean as a follower of Christ in the United Methodist Church.  Use your pastor’s message and perhaps the points of his or her topic that allow for further discussion, questions, and feedback with your youth. Perhaps invite your pastor to engage in those conversations. Be proactive for your youth’s participation in committees and planning teams, as well as some of the extension ministries of the church (shawl ministries, visiting teams, prayer teams, community outreach).   A young person who is fully engaged and included in the life of the church is more likely to seek involvement as a young adult when they’ve aged out of youth group.
  • Beyond- Are your young people actively consistently involved in life as a Disciple outside of the church?  Again, current research talks about going beyond “events” (one week mission trips, annual service projects) and having them “be” the church outside the walls of the church building. Knowing and working within their community, seeking justice and helps them to understand who Jesus was, and how His life and His ministry  impacted all levels of society. 

Growing up in a church can be an impactful part of a young person’s life.  The key is that they don’t “only” grow up as part of a youth group.  This limits their perspective, and they are unable to see their place and purpose in the life of the church, and/or why to continue their journey as a Disciple of Jesus Christ when their days of youth group are over.  Growing up together is an intentional ministry that grows the young person into a mature person of faith.

Resources:

Growing Young 6 Essential Strategies to Help Young People Discover and Love Your Church by Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin

Praying in the Messiness of Life 7 ways to renew your relationship with God by Linda Douty