Student long for acceptance! Are they finding it at your group?
This past Friday night I walked around the youth ministry that I volunteer at and was reminded of the importance of creating an atmosphere of healthy community within a ministry. Students are looking for a place where people know who they are and that they are cared for and encouraged in their lives. Youth ministry is an opportunity to demonstrate what true biblical community can look like. Here’s what they need to see in your ministry….
The early church is an incredible example. Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-35 gives us a picture of how the early church functioned as a community. In our own ministries we can take truth from these passages and incorporate them.
The most important aspect of biblical community is a desire to follow Christ. When we think about cultivating community within our youth ministries, there needs to be a dedication to grow in knowledge and understanding of Christ and the Word. This is where spiritual grows and development occur.
Community also happens when people share their stories with each other. True community takes place when people feel comfortable to share their stories in a safe place. This gives people a deeper understanding of each other and allows for grace, kindness and empathy to flow.
Time and Commitment
True community takes time and commitment. It does not happen overnight, it requires patience and time spent together. There are not any quick fixes to cultivating true community, so allow for time. Adding to that point, there also needs to be a commitment to it. The idea of commitment usually suggests a time, intention and focus. True community should focus on the outcome: for students to feel cared for, accepted, and encouraged in their lives.
Creative Consistent Caring
Equally important is the need for frequency. There needs to be regular occasions where students and leaders spend time together. This should happen within and outside of the youth programs. What opportunities are being taken to have regular contact with students to build genuine community? Look for opportunities to share a meal (we all know they love food!), attend student’s school or sport events, etc. There are many creative ways to cultivate a sense of community within your youth ministry.
A Safe Place to Belong
True community also is a place where students feel safe to share their hurts and mistakes. Student need to know that what they share will remain within the group and not gossiped about.
Acts 2:42 states: They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
When reading this passage it important to realize that the type of fellowship that is described here is more than a church picnic. In the early church, when they talked about fellowship it was more relational than recreational. They depended on this; they relied on this fellowship because the church was their community.
Hopefully, our youth ministries cultivate a sense of community where the students that enter the doors would sense this, and it will lead them to a greater understanding and faith in Christ.