Where actually are our young people?
I look for them around in the city of Freiburg and lo and behold- they are everywhere. This city is full of young people. Vibrant as they are, joyful as they are, energetic as they are, enthusiastic are they are, they move around spreading joy and celebrating love and life.
I look for them at church, but not many are seen around. Are they busy? Are they not interested? Are we not able to connect to them?
Give them a task, be it leading a worship or doing a camp out- they excel and yet we are not able to reach out to them.
And the important question is Why?
Youth comes but once in each persons’ life and if lived the way one ought to- once is enough. No movement of people, call it church or by any other name, can have a meaningful existence and a hopeful future if the young people are not part of it, owning it as their own and holding it dear in their hearts. We should never underestimate the tremendous possibilities and potential the young people bring to the fellowship and friendships. It is therefore important to have a serious youth audit of our ecclesial existence and assess where and why we fall short in the meaningful ministry to the young people.
Are the Young People the top priority in the life and witness of the Church? We should with an open and sincere mind look at the markers that define the church that gives young people the space due into them. They include among others
- Young people are included in the decision making processes in the life of the church- there is a sense of ownership
- Young people are part of the designing of worship and in the conduct of the worship life of the church- there is a sense of participation
- Young people are not ministered to but they minister with- there is a sense of belongingness
- Young people find it a joy to join with their parents or otherwise to be part of the worship and the other activities of the church- there is a sense of rejoicing
- Young people find the challenges they face being addressed and are helped to overcome some of the stressful ones- a sense of relevance
- Young people find that they get a direction for engagement with their future and with others- a sense of meaning
- Young people find hope in God and understands faith as an anchor that will hold them in any turbulent sea of life- a sense of hope
These markers should be the touchstone that should help us understand where we are as a church in offering a meaningful ministry to young people
Why are the young people absent?
To the question why are the young people not seen active in the life of the Church several answers are suggested. It would be worthwhile taking a look at each and asking if that is true about our young people. Which of these boxes would tick the youngsters we relate with.
- A secular culture that distances them from God, Religion and Spirituality
- A scientific temper and a technological mind-set where God thought does not connect to them
- A traditional church that does not relate to the language, aspirations and interest of the young.
- A tainted witness from which they would prefer to disassociate
- An expectation of entertainment that does not find fulfilment in the serious life of the church
- A busy life, an uncertain future and the quest to invest time on what matters most to keep them abreast with the challenges of life.
- An understanding of health that does not take the spiritual health dimension seriously but only physical, mental and emotional.
- A relaxed attitude from the family where there is no parental pressure insisting a quest of God or religion and a breakdown of traditional understanding of family in the public square.
There could be several other reasons why we are missing our youngsters. It is high time we prayerfully look at each of these intensely and ask why are we missing our young people.
It is worthwhile in this context to review the kind of programmes offered for young people. In some churches a very structured teaching plan is scheduled around the Confirmation but other than that if there is an absence of a systematic plan.
If we analyse the programme that the church offers it is important to ask which of the following that the young people think would connect to them are offered in our local churches
- Regular Youth Meetings with youth friendly content led and owned by Young People
- Bible Studies and Seminars of topics that relate to the young
- Youth Walks and Evening Outs discussing issues core to their being
- Overnight retreats- to connect to each other and raise questions that concern them
- Week Long camps at least once during vacation providing the young space to be heard
- Mission trips giving exposure to harsher realities of life helping them to appreciate the blessing of God and commit to make the life of others and the environment better
- Social Engagement initiatives where the young people are encouraged to create a smile in another
It is often said- Give the Young People What they Want and They will want What You Give. It is important that we understand the young people and their expectations and then with them design a relevant and meaningful programme
The Nature of Youth Ministry
What should then be the nature of youth ministry that we envisage?
- A Relational Ministry- it is all about building connections, to God, to each other and to nature
- A Peer Group Focussed Ministry- it is about young people ministering to each other
- A Bible centred Ministry- it is about the life and work of Jesus and is centered in the Bible
- A Youth Led Ministry- it is allowing the youth to decide the nature and content of the ministry
- A Time focussed Ministry- It is about understanding that youthfulness would soon pass and it could be too late anytime to reach to them,
- A Good Samaritan Ministry- It is about young people being able to see the people around them in need, having compassion, sharing their mite and taking the responsibility of affirmation of life
- A transformation directed Ministry- It is about young people being equipped to be channels and catalysts of transformation of structure of injustice into overflowing rivers of justice
- An Inviting Ministry- Inviting the young people to the joys and adventures of pastoral ministry and mission engagements
The Pauline Exhortations that could be a guiding paradigm to define meaningful Youth Ministry as envisaged in Timothy 4:16 include
- Learn to live letting no one despise your youth
- Learn to design your life as an example for others
- Learn how to talk
- Learn how to conduct your life
- Learn how to love
- Learn how to cherish faith
- Learn how to personify purity
Yes, I am hopeful that we will be able to meaningfully connect with our young people and build a hope-filled, love guided and relevant ministry with them.
Yes Freiburg is full of young people and that makes ministry exciting and hopeful!!
Rev’d Vinod Victor
Chaplain, Anglican Church of Freiburg
on August 1, 2022