By Michelle S. Lazurek, Crosswalk.com
As leaders, we always want our kids to prioritize church and youth group attendance. Their weekly attendance at both Sunday mornings and small group nights is essential to keeping kids on the right track when it comes to following their faith. This generation does not hold the same values as older generations. Older generations valued hard work, taking care of family, and being loyal to their congregation. As the statistics suggest, youth are leaving church in droves. Not prioritizing their faith is one of the many catalysts for youth leaving the faith. But how do we as leaders get youth–especially those who are on the brink of adulthood—to prioritize their faith? Here are six amazing ways to teach them how to do that:
1. Capitalize on Their Strengths
Although we parents don't want to send the message that kids need to receive a reward simply for attending church or reading their bibles, it is a good motivator to help them put their faith at the forefront of their lives. Ask them about some things they would like to do or their strengths. For example, if a teen loves being in the school play, utilize drama in your youth group meetings. Allow kids to make up a choreographed dance, skit, or something that will make youth group meetings more fun. This will make youth group nights fun and incentivize them to make their presence a priority.
2. Let Them Go
Although this is a difficult thing for leaders to realize, strong-arming and manipulation are not going to change their lack of priorities. There are many examples throughout the Bible of God giving people over into the hands of a king because it's what they wanted. When they turn their backs on God, they often ask for a king to rule over them. God in his mercy allowed them a king whose tyranny was too difficult for them to endure. Because of the pain the king endured, the people cried out for God's mercy. He forgave them, only to find they returned to their rebellious ways. Sometimes it's best to let a child go and choose their own way because they're too rebellious. They need to learn how to prioritize on their own. This is the first step in teens losing their faith.
3. Create a Covenant
Throughout the Old Testament, God makes covenants with people. His covenants involved an agreement between him and them to let him be the Lord of their lives. In the same way, you can create a covenant with your youth. The covenant should begin with an explanation of this question, “what do we hope to achieve by establishing a covenant?” It also outlines expectations, consequences for disobedience, and goals to meet. A covenant is a loving union between God and his people. It is not a reprimand for harsh behavior. Rather, it is an agreement between you and your youth covering what is to be expected.
We want teens to carry high moral values and continue the legacy of faith. But we don't outline exactly what that will look like. By establishing a written covenant with youth, you both sign agreeing to the terms suggested. This will also benefit when conflict arises if goals are not met, or boundaries are violated. If a conflict does arise, simply pull out the covenant or place it in a place in the youth room to remind both you and your youth each day of what your agreement is. If the agreement is not followed, simply show your youth the covenant and remind them of what they agreed to. This will cut down on your frustrations if the child does not follow the covenant.
4. Set Goals
Families should seek to set goals together. Not only will this help increase the bond you have as a family but also allow kids to prioritize what is important to them. Sit down with your child and ask them what are their goals in life. What do they seek to gain out of life?
Not only should kids want to set goals to help them prioritize the right things in life, but family members should also set goals together. Perhaps they want to help in their community with something to raise money for a specific cause. That is something that a family can do together. They can volunteer their time they can raise money for certain costs and give the money at the end of the year. Setting goals is a great way to keep kids motivated and help them prioritize the things that will get them further in life. When they reach their goals, it is an accomplishment worth celebrating. The kids get a boost in self-esteem and parents know that kids are learning what is important and what isn't.
5. Figure Out Their Passions
To set the proper priorities, you as a leader must figure out what they're passionate about. Every kid has a passion, even those who are introverted or withdrawn from you or the youth group. Sit down with teens and ask them what their passions are. Write what they say on a whiteboard. See if there are any common themes where more than one teen has the same passion. Once you identify this, allow kids to explore those passions. For example, if a child is passionate about being on student council at school, help them discover the reason behind why that is so important to them. Are they a natural-born leader? Do they want to make changes within their school? These are all good values to have. These are all ways youth groups can rally and help fulfill these passions together as a group. Teens may not be mature enough to be able to see what their underlying passion is, but you as a leader can help them figure it out. This will also help each child to feel like they've been seen and heard and allow you to bond with your teens.
6. Discover Their Purpose
If you find a teen who is unwilling to participate in the above suggestions, it's important to sit down and figure out why. Perhaps there are unmet emotional needs that need to be addressed. Unemotional needs will trickle into your youth group and create a toxic environment if not addressed. Be a listening ear and let the child speak. Let them air out their thoughts, concerns, and questions. Help them address these questions and concerns and do what you can to meet them. Although there may be nothing you can do in the end, it just helps them to know that you care enough to try to meet their needs and help them find a place of belonging. Once they find that they belong, they will more likely want to prioritize their lives in accordance with what they believe.
As leaders, we want to make sure every teen feels appreciated, valued, and seen. By helping them prioritize their lives, they will achieve that sense of belonging and a sense of purpose. Allow them to make their own mistakes, seek to meet their needs, address their concerns, and figure out their passions. Investing in teens’ emotional health and helping them adopt healthy patterns for their lives will be an asset to them not only in your youth group but also as they journey into adulthood.
Photo Credit: Unsplash/Angelica Reyes
Michelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife, and mother. She is a literary agent for Wordwise Media Services and a certified writing coach. Her new children’s book Who God Wants Me to Be encourages girls to discover God’s plan for their careers. When not working, she enjoys sipping a Starbucks latte, collecting 80s memorabilia, and spending time with her family and her crazy dog. For more info, please visit her website www.michellelazurek.
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.
You can read Rhonda's full article here.
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