3 Ideas for Youth Work You Can Try Right Now
Having worked with young people for over 20 years in a multitude of contexts, one thing I know is that the work is relational; it’s about the young people in front of you.
This means the young people I’m working with are different to the ones in front of Jamie in another church, or Sue in her community centre. But, even more complex than that, the dynamics of your work and what the young people are like will continually change over time.
The changes might be influenced by what’s going on for them that day/week/month/year, how they are feeling in that moment, or how you’re feeling, if it’s windy (no joke, I think it has an effect!), if there are new members of the group and so on…we could sit here all day and list factors. I haven’t even mentioned 2020 or the fact we’re in a second lockdown! Whatever your situation, this moment has never happened before and there are always opportunities to be present with those in front of you – you just need to look for them.
With that in mind, here’s some ideas for working with the young people in front of you, right now.
Idea 1: Keep it simple: Make contact
Just reach out. Sometimes we can overcomplicate things with endless programs, complex online options, streaming, gaming, or whatever you can think of. For me, keeping it simple means investing time, energy, and resources into the relationships with young people around you – the relationships matter more than the “stuff” and things you’re providing.
A great relationship between you and the group will likely have a bigger impact on their faith long term than any program you could run. Programs fall apart easily; relational influence can last a lifetime.
Idea 2: Get people connected through prayer
It’s a great time to encourage young people to engage in prayer. Encourage young people to get involved and explore new ways to pray for both themselves and others. Could you organise a buddy system or small groups? Could you find 5 adults that would commit to praying for 5 young people? Those 5 young people could pray for them in return. You could get them all to write a quick list (3-5 things max) about for what they would like prayer and then swap lists with the adults. Perhaps start an ‘old skool’ pen pal system (with the correct procedures in place). Remember, your intention here is to build community and relationship between young people and the adults available to them in a safe manner.
Idea 3: Christmas Card charity collection
Here’s a fun one. Ask the young people to choose a charity to support. You could hold a Dragon’s Den–style event where each group or individual presents their research on that charity to the rest of the group and one charity is chosen overall by the group.
Then get the whole group to approach the Vicar with a view to speaking to the church about giving their Christmas card money (for the cards they would have given to each other in church) to the charity. A great activity, led by young people, that unites the whole church family and the chosen charity through generosity.
I’m aware the time is challenging for some of you just now. I’m also aware of a great uncertainty about the future. Some of you might be concerned by low numbers of young people checking in with you.
I encourage you to be diligent with and faithful to the ones you have in front of you. Focus on the young people who God has brought to you, not the ones He has not. Trust that God has brought exactly those who should be in front of you right now – and that He is continually working to bring others to you as well. This is not a numbers game, or a competition with anyone else. Pray for the people in community with you, right here, right now. Check in with them. Listen to them. You and they will reap great rewards.
You will build some amazing, lasting relationships both between them and you, and between them and God – and isn’t that what it’s all about?