Support and encouragement
As young people we face so many new challenges in life every day and our spiritual lives can be like a sports match. When you’re playing sport, you often get bumps and bruises along the way, but once you apply some “arnica” or “freeze spray” you feel better and can get back out there.
In our spiritual lives we can also get bumps and bruises, but the Holy Spirit acts as the medicine we need to soothe the blows. In a sports match, those injuries can amount to more; in fact they can result in broken bones that take us out of the game for a while. These are fixed by putting a cast on the effected limb, which supports and protects it while healing comes from within.
In our spiritual lives our bruises can amount to breaks too. Situations and events can come along and knock us for six, even stopping us from growing in our faith and growing closer to God. At times we feel broken and during these times, just like a broken bone, we need healing. We need healing from our Father but we also need the Church to act as our cast to support and facilitate the healing. We want to know that the church cares for the bruises, as well as the broken bones.
So how can we do this?
Our congregation, for example, has developed a prayer “Whatsapp group.” We have added in people from across the generations to share prayer requests and show they care and are praying.
Another way of doing this is to develop a mentoring programme. Someone older in the faith constantly taking an interest in you and ensuring your spiritual needs are being met.
Heard and listened to
Young people also need to be heard and listened to when we bring forward our suggestions and ideas for our church.
Each one of us has so many talents and ideas and we need to able to use them for God’s glory. Often we’re afraid to voice these ideas, or suggest change, because we think they’ll be brushed aside, especially as we are told we’re the “future” of the church – but in reality we are the “now” of the church too.
It is thought that 70% of young people drop out of our churches each year and who better to reach them than their peers? Therefore our ideas are essential. Moreover, our ideas span wider than just reaching out to our peers – they reach out into the wider church too. So how can we ensure that our ideas are heard, supported and encouraged? Here are some ideas:
- Through a youth council – this could take varying forms
- Visits from key leaders in church to youth/young adults groups to see what’s going on and what’s needed
- Ask your minister if you can meet with the Kirk Session to share any issues and ideas.
Valued and involved
We need to feel valued and involved in a multigenerational church. God calls all to worship Him. Not just the elders, older people or those who seem to have their lives together. Therefore we shouldn’t take a back seat in weekly worship gatherings, or the week by week running of our church. We want to be involved.
Ministers love one-off youth services, which can be great and it’s awesome to be able to do this. But we want to be involved more often; we are an integral part of the church family. Young people don’t just want an annual youth service. We want weekly involvement from the back seat and the front seat!
Maybe this means getting to pick a song of worship each week, being asked to do the Bible readings, or getting to share how God is working in our lives with the congregation during worship. Whatever it is, we want more opportunities both to get involved in church life and ministry, but also to get to know other members of the church family, hearing their stories and learning from them. This could take the form of:
- Social nights across the age divide in a congregation.
- Inviting older couples from the church to some nights of youth group.
- A grub crawl (a different course at a different church member’s house).
Finally, young people want relevant teaching. There are so many prevalent issues in society and young people want to know where the church stands on these issues and how to deal with them as they arise. We need the space to question things, thrash out issues and get answers as we deepen our faith in a non-judgemental environment. This could take the form of:
- A series offering teaching on key and relevant issues
- Opportunities to speak, question, ask and discuss the teaching that we hear
- Hearing real life stories from members of the congregation about issues they are facing today as Christians
- Practical applications made in sermons for us to take into our every day lives.
We are the NOW of the church and also its future leadership. We need to be heard. My hope is that if you are a young person reading this, you may now feel able to go to your own church leader and bring your ideas.
This may seem daunting, but remember in Joshua 1:9 it says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Maybe, like Esther, you were born for such a time as this. You can make a difference!
The Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) Youth Assembly is designed to help young people have their voice heard within their church. The 2017 Assembly was held on 29th January and saw over 100 young people and young adults from right across the PCI come together in Belfast for a day of discussion, reflection, teaching input and prayer. The topics covered were the Church and Social Media, Mental Health and the Church, and Youth Participation in the Church.
The responses to the discussion around the topics will be collated in a report for the wider church to help move the debate forward. This includes a plan to gather some young adults through a residential initiative that will take place during this year’s General Assembly.
You can find out more about youth and children in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland here.