Work with Youth As Individuals, Not As A Group

It was the “youth” week to make a stewardship presentation in worship, and, given that I’m the Associate Pastor responsible for the “youth,” I needed to pull something together.

Let me skip to the end and work backward.

Two students and I presented a hoaky little song-and-dance that got the message across and made ’em laugh. I wrote the thing. The students just said “yes.”

One of the students said “yes” about two minutes beforehand, when I saw him in the front pew and pitched him on taking part. “It’s super simple,” I told him, and I wasn’t lying.

The other student agreed a few days before, by way of our Facebook group for youth. That was my main strategy: Facebook. I put up a message on Monday.

This Sunday: I need students to help me with a Sound of Music themed bit about giving and stewardship. I’m thinking something Do-Re-Mi ish during the Children’s Time. Who’s in?

First response: “which Sunday?”

Second response: “I’ll do it, but do I have to stand up in front of everybody?”

A day later I suggested a specific strategy:

How about this: check out the do-re-mi song and suggest things about CPC based on all the “do’s” “re’s” Mi’s” and everything else. For example: do–the church gives/for mission trips. Re–the light that fills our church . . . You get the idea. And you guys can do better than these. Fire away!

First response: “I’m not in.”

Ultimately, a single student was interested in participating and willing to make one suggestion. I wrote the rest, texted the student a reminder on Saturday, and brought it with me on Sunday.

The episode illustrates a truth about youth ministry today: it’s less and less working with groups of students and more and more working with individuals–identifying gifts in individuals and inviting them to share those gifts in specific ways.

Our church has no “youth group” to speak of. It has multiple groupings of students who come together for different purposes at different times and for varying durations. A project like this requires a youth worker to identify particular students who would a) enjoy it and b) be good at it, and then work with those students on it. When it’s done, they’re done.

It also requires a youth worker to use a better tool than Facebook for inviting students to share their gifts, but that’s another post.

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