I bet you didn't know I work in youth ministry, because, well, I didn't tell you. ;) I didn't think it was really relevant to mothering, but you know what? It is. After all, most who have children will be somehow effected, at some point, with the youth ministry at their church.
While I don't consider myself an expert by any stretch, I think most of us know that today's youth culture can be a dangerous place of peer pressure and rejection. For Christian teenagers, the struggle still exists, and many parents don't even know it. We often believe that if we raise our children in the "right" environment, they will somehow be immune to temptation, peer pressure, and the ability to "fit in" [even though we are called to stand out].
I am not going to sugar coat it, friends. Kids can be cruel. :( And trying to live out their faith upstream, is a double challenge. These students need their parents and adults in the church to rally around them and support them; giving them strong leadership and a firm foundation. Just like we cannot stand up on our own, neither can our teens.
My husband is the youth pastor at our church and I am his support in ministry. We have been doing youth ministry together, on a volunteer basis, for 10 years. I work to develop relationships with the students as well as offer a voice into my husbands lessons (he writes his own curriculum). Our goal is to come alongside the parents in a support fashion to help spiritually charge the teenagers with fresh passion for Christ. Our vision is to build lifelong followers of Jesus Christ.
Something vital we need parents to understand is that we cannot replace what they do at home. Their home must be the foundation for spiritual growth--it must come from the parent. Youth ministry is simply a support to continue encouraging that.
However, there are exceptions to this rule. My husband and I did not grow up in the church and both gave our lives to Christ in a youth ministry setting. I believe, based on the needs of the church, each youth ministry is going to function differently.
The youth ministry we are currently in, every teen has grown up in the church. As a result, what we teach might be considered rather in depth for your typical youth ministry. We are also a small group and have the opportunity for open discussion throughout the lesson.
We came out of working with a large youth ministry and can see the cons of the large ministry compared to a small group. In a small group, it is easier to meet the needs of the students [because we know them]. In a large group, it is much harder to accomplish this because the group is so large, thus the needs are vast. Typically, the message is kept as "milk" in order to not lose those who are new in their walk, or have not yet given their hearts to God. Unfortunately, we then lose the Christian teens who are in a deeper walk with God. It is a very hard balance.
My goal here on Joyful Mothering, is to occasionally offer some insights to today's youth, and how we, as parents, can step up and meet the needs of our teenagers (or eventual teenagers). Below you will find a series of articles I highly, highly recommend reading, whether you are the parent of a teenager or of small children. It is very important we open our eyes.
Response #1 to The Saddest Letter (general response)
Response #2 to The Saddest Letter (a response to parents)
Response #3 to The Saddest Letter (a response to the young lady who wrote the letter)
I will be addressing these in more depth in the coming weeks.
Question: What is your greatest concern surrounding church youth ministry today?