My interviews with each of the youth ministers were very interesting and informative. Having now done three articles on what I learned, I realize I still have some questions.
Why do kids like going to youth events, but the same kids are not at all interested in going to church? Is it simply because church is “boring”? Is there anything we can do, as youth ministers, as young people, as a congregation?
There didn’t seem to be a great deal of interest generally in going to conferences. Why? Are they too structured? Too preachy? Too “out there”? Do we need to rethink the concept behind these events?
Some churches are having trouble getting youth to commit to going on outings and doing things that are outside their normal activities. Are they just afraid of those things that are different? How do we overcome this?
I also learned some interesting things, that I had not considered before.
When it comes to engaging the disengaged youth, which is perhaps at the root of some of the questions I raised above, Rev. Burrows, at the Church of the Ascension said that there are three things we should do. The first is to engage them through music, youth have a particular affinity for music, it reaches them the way other things cannot, so finding ways to include more different types of music that appeal to them just might reach them more effectively. The second was to offer opportunities for leadership and other skill development, both for life and for faith as they are really one and the same journey. Third we should engage the community as a whole and loosen the “institutionalism” by making church activities and services more about the mind, heart and body and less about outdated traditions, like not being allowed to wear shorts to church!
Rev. Gail as St. Thomas’s pointed out that it is also necessary to present the Gospel creatively, in new ways, in order to reach the minds of the young. You need to challenge kids, and they tend to be even more open to expressing their spirituality than are adults,
they just have to be shown how. It’s not just about teaching faith stories (which is obviously important) but you need to inspire kids, to create in them an enthusiasm for their faith, to make youth group or church on Sunday’s the best half hour of their week…if that means dressing up and playing the fool a bit to catch their attention that’s what it will take.
I also discovered that Christians need to challenge themselves, and each day step outside their comfort zone and do something they are afraid of, to get over the fear and just get out and do it…we will never be nailed to a cross for what we believe, so how bad can it really get??
Fr. Sam at St Michaels had quite the stroke of genius – to find new people, you must do something NEW. Who’d have thunk it? The same old things that the church has been doing for years is obviously not attracting the new crowd that you want to attract, so his message to others is to find what works for the people you need to reach, take risks, it will be a process of trial and error, some things will work, others will flop, but keep trying and keep praying.
I also wanted to share this story that I heard from Fr. Sam: A man approached Fr Sam after having attended one of the “non traditional” Saturday masses. He admitted that he had been skeptical. Then he said “thank you for letting us worship as a family, I spend so much time working away from my family and the last thing I want when I go to church with them is to be separated from them (by Sunday School).” It was a new perspective for Fr. Sam, and perhaps this is why the alternative services and the messy church that he has brought to St Michaels is growing the way it is, because young families want to be able to worship together, they have different needs now than they did at one time, the traditional service is no longer meeting their needs and so they are not attending. Something perhaps more churches need to consider, and find ways to meet the changing needs of these young families.
Here ends my series on youth ministry on Newfoundland’s East Coast, I hope you have enjoyed the ride, and I hope you will share any feedback you have, I’d love to hear from you.