“A life lived in community, in relationship, is one that is open to the influence of others. Congregations chose – or not – to take to hear what we witness in the lives of the youth in our midst. We decide – or not – to embrace teens, along with all comers, as people of dignity and worth equal to that of any other people.”
– Jill M. Schwendeman (from When Youth Lead)
Youth Ministry is about serving youth in their spiritual, religious, and ethical formation. It is also about boisterous midnight discussions, Oreos, learning from mistakes, powerful and intimate worships, self exploration, fellowship, hilarity, Cons, acts of service and profound bonds of friendship and trust.
Youth Ministry includes direct programming offered to youth that they both participate in, and in many cases act as co-creators of. It can also refer to the more broad youth community that is created by and through that programming and at Youth Conferences and Trainings.
Youth ministry is not about youth alone. Trusted adults, usually volunteers called advisors – acts as important stewards of this journey of creative ministry, helping to hold the space for youth to be empowered as they learn and grow. Youth advisors in ministering to youth must perform a complicated dance that asks them to at times be: mentor, chauffeur, leader, parent, observer, and teacher. Youth advisors are a vital part of youth ministry and it could not happen with out them.
Adults are not the only one’s who can minister to youth however. Youth, although they may not use this term, minister to each other in powerful ways: as they build strong friendships; learn and grow together; hold each other accountable and support one another as they experience the highs and lows of being teens together.
In Canada this service to our youth is shown in a huge variety of ways. Many congregations support weekly youth group meetings, where youth and their adult advisors come together to, among other things: check-in, have discussions, plan and attend worships, do curricula, make and eat food together, do works of service and have time for fun and laughter. Many youth are also involved in the shared ministry of their congregation in a variety of ways including, teaching in the RE programs, participating in choirs and committees, and serving on congregational boards.
Conferences – or youth CONs are also a big part of youth ministry. These weekend events provide intensive and focused time and space for youth to have a depth of experience with each other. Con are often celebrated for their youth worship and particularly for youth from small congregations, as they can provide the main means of experiencing UU youth community, in a concentrated and in depth way.
Providing thoughtful, caring support and dedicated place in our congregations for this tumultuous and transformative time of life is at the heart of youth ministry and is one of the biggest commitments we can make to showing our youth people that we really do affirm their inherent worth and dignity and we support their free and responsible search for truth and meaning.
For more information check out our resources for congregational youth ministry and youth programming.