Re: High School Youth Sunday School Crash & Burn
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Posted by Thomas J. Cook on March 17, 1998 at 22:12:36:
In Reply to: High School Youth Sunday School Crash & Burn posted by Patricia Wilson on March 13, 1998 at 20:24:58:
Thanks for taking the time to post your question on the Sunday School Page! It is good to hear that your church has "growing pains," and that you have experienced youth workers available to lead your teens. I asked our Minister of Youth and Education, Jeff Hiett, to respond to your situation. Jeff leads our youth division of about 100 teens in Sunday School, as well as various other weekly and seasonal youth activities. Hopefully we will get some additional advice as others respond.
It is difficult to diagnose a problem from the few details you were able to put in the discussion posting, but we'll try to give you a few suggestions about things to think about and try--realizing that some of them may not really apply to your situation.
Let me remind you that the most important thing to do is to pray about your youth program. Ideally, you could get your staff, youth workers, and a few key youth to commit to pray--either getting together, as prayer partners, or at an agreed time.
Here are Pastor Jeff's observations:
- Get another room, anywhere you can use adult chairs.
- Eliminate "other things" on Sunday morning; all teens need to be in Bible study.
- Plan a youth outing one Sunday after church.
- Honestly evaluate the curriculum being used; bw willing to change.
- is it creative?
- does it involve students?
- is it relevant?
- Does the teacher work to build relationships with the students? Kids want relationships, not authority figures.
- Spend time making contact with students (cards, calls, visits, Coke at McDonalds, etc.).
Jeff's summary is "Youth don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."
Let me add a few administrative suggestions--
- The chairs are a real problem for youth, whose developmental tasks involve trying to establish a personal identity and move into adulthood. It would be much better to let them sit on the floor than to ask them to sit in 3-year chairs. Are any adult classes in similar situations? If not, this is a clear message that the youth are second-class citizens. If so, then this is less of a problem (as long as the youth understand the situation and that it is temporary).
- The relationship aspect that Jeff speaks of is critical. When I worked with youth as a layman several years ago, I spend over 150 days each year (not counting Sundays) with at least some contact with youth--youth council, fellowships, skating parties, attending school ball games, individual contacts--to earn a hearing by building a relationship. The kids had no doubt that I cared about them.
- Try to get the teens involved in solving the problem. They need to have some ownership of the program and participation in decision-making. It sounds as though they've expressed negative opinions about the curriculum, for instance, with little impact. Perhaps you could get them involved in a more positive way by asking key youth (or the whole group) what they would like to study, or involve them in selecting from various curriculum options. [I don't advocate letting teens study only what they choose themselves, but they certainly need input into the decision process.]
Hope that helps some. Let us know if any of this leads to further questions.
Tom Cook/Jeff Hiett
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