Why You Should Get Involved with Youth at Church
- Maria Cheshire Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2017 23 Mar
I grew up with a family, and a church family. I was blessed with a multitude of role models, from Sunday School teachers, to choir leaders, to youth group advisors. This village helped raise me and teach me Christian values, leading by example and encouraging me each step of the way. As an adult, I seized the opportunity to return the favor, and was a co-leader on two “workcamp” service trips with groups of senior high youth. This role reversal offered surprising opportunities for growth and reflection. Here are just a few benefits I found from spending time with youth:
Kids are funny.
Being around teenagers, especially for an extended period of time like a one-week service trip, can serve as a welcome escape from an adult mindset fixated on tasks and responsibilities. Even while painting a porch, or driving to and from a work site, the youth around me delighted in crafting jokes and witty observations. They cleverly spun webs of connection with friends old and new through evolving jokes and filled our church van with laughter that eased any physical or mental fatigue.
It was hard to laugh sometimes, like after serving the homeless meals on Skid Row or picking up trash under a scorching hot sun, but God worked through the youth each day, reminding me that joy and laughter can always be found.
“He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouting.” (Job 8:21)
Kids provide opportunities for personal reflection.
It can be tough growing up; no doubt you remember some aches and wounds encountered along the way. Seeing a child struggle with something you also struggled with can help you recognize how far you’ve come. What a blessing to notice that weight has been shed, and burdens which once seemed so heavy no longer tying us down. We can then use our experience to help someone else, transforming a negative experience into something good.
How incredible it is to watch God swirl things full circle! You might also identify a trait that you wish to reclaim, something worn down or abandoned over time. A forgiving nature, innate flexibility, or fearless creativity, perhaps. All of these can be reclaimed! When a child reminds us of who we used to be, that person can still be revived; God always offers opportunities for regrowth.
Kids provide hope for the future.
It can be hard to relate to teenagers today and their ever-present technology. Yes, they are constantly “plugged-in” to their cellphones and tablets, playing games and sending selfies and a million other things that we may not understand. BUT. Beneath all that—wow! There is such caring, hope and grace.
Watching youth enthusiastically prepare meals for a soup kitchen, fearlessly talk to the homeless to learn their stories, and share their own struggles with vulnerability… there is such richness to discover, beyond the surface. Finding these depths only comes from genuine interaction, from spending days and weeks (or years) with youth in settings where the phones are set aside, and genuine interaction occurs.
I was incredibly impressed with our youth group’s work ethic, enthusiasm, motivation, and caring on both trips that I attended. Watching them gave me great hope for the future, and reminded me how similar we all are despite generational differences. God is working through all of us, old and young, and the future is bright.
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19)
Working with youth at church is a service. Like any service, it is not always easy or appealing at first glance. But it is important, so very important. Our youth need strong role models, real people showing they care and modeling Christian values. Sometimes showing up is enough: your presence at a youth fundraiser or your recognition after a youth participates in worship. These little signs of support matter, as do the larger ones like leading Sunday School or attending a service trip.
As a child growing up in the church, I know that this love and support sticks with us, accumulating over time into a safety net where we know, without a doubt, that church is a place where we are loved, and where we matter. As adults in the church, we are all called to participate different degrees according to our abilities and circumstances. Prayerfully consider the ways in which you can support your church’s youth. Your time and attention matters. When we give, we also receive; prepare yourself for the surprising benefits you may receive on your investment.
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38)
Please pray with me:
Heavenly Father, help me be a role model to youth in and outside of my church. Help me to display strong Christian values in my words and actions. Guide me to service where you see fit. Here I am, Lord, willing to be your servant. Amen.
Maria Cheshire teaches and coaches in Bristow, Virginia. She enjoys running, yoga, food, travel and adventure. Maria is currently writing her first young adult novel.
Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: March 23, 2017