People need to know they belong and are connected to older people in their lives who love, accept and believe in them. Connectedness is the sense of belonging to a community that surrounds each individual. It includes family but is especially significant when a young person can experience belonging in addition to the family, in environments such as church, school, sports and other clubs and neighbourhoods. The more positive adult ‘connections’ that a young person has – people who love them unconditionally and ‘believe’ in them, the more chances they have of experiencing belonging.
Examples: You can try to cultivate that sense of belonging in any of these places in your church
- Sabbath School,
- Youth Groups,
- Life groups,
- Bible study groups,
- Weekly socials & family fun-days,
- Pathfinder clubs.
Questions to ask:
- How can we make our Teens & Youth Sabbath Schools and the above groups places where young people connect and build relationships rather than just attend? Look for ways to build community and belonging beyond ice-breakers and outside of the church service on Saturday.
- Are there any other events we could put on to make it normal and natural for young people outside of (or even inside of our church) to connect with adults and other young people? It could be a church games night, mens or womens group. Many conferences have Water Ski Ministries for hire and these all day events are a great way to build community and build mastery.
- How welcoming is your church to young people? Do they feel accepted (not judged) despite their shortcomings? Sometimes young people expect to be rejected so your church needs to be intentional about making positive first impressions and creating long term connections.
- Can your church sponsor or subsidise young people to attend conference junior and teen camps? These are important in building belonging if your church can do some good follow-up work to integrate the attendees into your church or another healthy community.
People need to be taught skills that give them a sense of achievement and confidence. Research shows young people who are involved in out of school skill-developing activities such as sports, hobbies or music develop a sense of ‘mastery’. That experience and feeling of working hard and achieving is significant in building resilience. A key person in this area is the coach or teacher who is mentoring the young person. As in connectedness, it is the positive relationship with an older adult, who sees the potential, takes an interest and believes in the ability of the young person to succeed.
Examples: Anywhere in your church there are chances for young people to learn and become a master in a skill from adults such as:
- a job in the church band, sound team, or helping run any part of the church or youth service;
- the successful completion of a Pathfinder class or honour;
- training for and competing in a sports tournament;
- preparing for Youth Sabbath or event such as Camporee or a teen camp, or a fundraising activity;
- and it can be as simple as learning an instrument or perfecting a hobby from an adult in your church or community.
Questions to ask:
- What are some ways the adults of your church can build the skills of young people? Make an inventory of all the transferrable skills the adults in your church can teach and then ask the young people to prioritise a list of skills they’d want to learn about.
- Are there some logical places in your church service or church calendar to give young people a chance to showcase and celebrate their skills?
- Outside of church are there hobbies or fun activities where the adults in your church can act as mentors and instructors for young people? Anyone willing to be a driving instructor? Do you have any mechanics who are willing to teach car skills on a Sunday?
When young people learn that life is about giving and not just taking then they’ll know they exist to help others and see beyond themselves. Here you are challenging selfishness and an inward focus. Christian values such as humility and service are a good antidote. Involvement in service activities, giving to others, and being a mentor themselves, is a crucial element of building resilience. Some of your young people may be ready to volunteer as individuals and others may be more comfortable serving in a group e.g. setting up, cleaning or packing down church or a youth venue or even cleaning an elderly person’s backyard.
Examples: Any activities such as:
- The annual ADRA appeal or other events such as Red Nose day, The Biggest Morning Tea or Daffodil Day to name a few.
- Fun runs, volunteering (or paid-volunteering) at fundraising events or anywhere they can help or give sacrificially. In this area make sure you explain that the purpose of your fundraising isn’t just for your youth group but remind them of the greater causes, i.e. Cancer, Children’s Health etc, and how they are helping real people as a result of their service.
- STORMCO, mission trips, ADRA connections in Australia or New Zealand.
Remember that the outcome is not just a great bonding experience for your young people, it is also so they experience the beauty of selfless giving and serving. Also, while short term mission trips (1-2 weeks) are valuable, the research confirms it is regular (i.e. weekly, fortnightly etc) service in a young person’s own community over a extended period of time is actually a more effective determinant of what makes young people more resilient.
Questions to ask:
- How can we move our young people away from being me-centered to being others-centred?
- How do make we this a value for the entire church so that young people are seeing this behaviour being modelled?
- What are some random acts of kindness your youth group can do for your neighborhood or community
- Are there any organisations in your community that you can partner with to provide youth and adult volunteers from your church? For instance a local primary school may be running a holiday club but be struggling to recruit quality volunteers. Your church could be a perfect solution if they are trained and understand their role is to assist the school without any agenda or judgement. To find out more opportunities, simply call your local council (normally the Community Development team or Youth Development Officer, Children & Families teams) and ask if they need any volunteers.
For all people to grow they need to be supported to face challenges, make decisions and accept the responsibility for the outcome. This is how a young person moves from dependence to independence; from relying on others to determine their direction to taking on roles that give them their own sense of direction. It helps if they belong to a community where older people give them opportunities to accept leadership and be accountable for its execution. Resilience is eventually built when a young person is given progressively more opportunities for leadership with accountability and support from mentors.
Examples: Any opportunities where young people can become leaders (and are supported) such as:
- A leader or co-leader or apprentice leader of a Sabbath school class, or any of these groups –
- Youth group;
- Band or praise & worship team;
- Adventurers of Pathfinders leader;
- A project with a specific goal and an end date;
- Or a leader of an event such as the youth church service or social activity.
Encourage them to take leader, camp counsellor roles at school or conference events and camps.
Questions to ask:
- What support systems do you have in place to grow children and young people and help them become independent leaders?
- What are roles where young people can lead without having to be baptised? Are there youth leadership roles available for a young person who isn’t baptised but demonstrates integrity and leadership?
- Outside of church what can you do to help your young people exercise and learn about leadership?