Resources to Encourage the Next Generation

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September 2021

How Can We Help Older People Make their Weekend Involvement in Church Less Frustrating and More Rewarding

in church and ministry leaders/inter-generational ministry/youth ministry by

I always feel badly when I overhear some of the oldest people in the church complain to others about the style of music, the length of the sermon, or the fashion styles of the younger generations.

I wonder why this once active and vibrant demographic age group feels the need to express their frustration so openly as they get older.

Maybe it’s because church leaders have just accepted and even unconsciously communicated the fact that as people get older, they often become increasingly negative, they have “had their day”, and they need to just get out of the way so that younger leaders can have their turn.

The reality is probably much less dramatic and pronounced than my description. But I do think that many churches have (maybe inadvertently, but perhaps intentionally too), pushed older generations out to the proverbial pasture. Maybe older members feel like they have lost their voice and lost their influence – and so they need to share their concerns with other somewhat likeminded people in personal cynical or pessimistic conversations.

I’ve wondered for years that maybe we could put a stop to this all-too-common scenario by developing and instituting a plan to deliberately and purposefully connect the generations in the church.

(I wrote a book about this idea a few years ago entitled, “Inter-Generational Youth Ministry: Why a Balanced View of Connecting the Generations is Essential for the Church”. You can obtain a copy at: https://www.youthministryquestions.com/book-store/inter-generational-youth-ministry. This book, however, is not really a youth ministry book. Instead, it presents practical and creative ways any church can effectively connect the generations.)

Friends, I cam convinced that church leaders should prepare for the eventuality that people will get older, they may feel as if they are losing their influence, and that we can help them keep, or regain their vital and vibrate ministries in the church by providing ways that they can have a growing voice and influence with younger people.

Here are a few practical ideas to consider:

  • Encourage your church’s oldest generations to pray specifically and individually for young people.

Take any opportunity you have to visit with your church’s older people to ask them to specifically and intentionally pray for the young people in your church. Do whatever you can to facilitate this action step. Give them a list of names, give them copies of the kids’ school pictures. One church made “baseball-card-size” info cards of every kid in the youth group to help that church’s senior citizens pray specifically for their kids.

  • Motivate your church’s older people to develop friendly and growing relationships with younger people by utilizing space in the church foyer for simple, friendly greetings and conversations.

Once your church’s older people are praying specifically and individually for young people, ask them to introduce themselves to the young people in the public spaces of your church, most likely in the church foyer or in the church auditorium. Yes, the young people may, at first, think it’s odd for the older people to greet them in this way. But ask the seniors to be persistent. In the long run, most young people would appreciate these simple, yet effective demonstrations of care and encouragement. One youth worker told me recently that their church asks the senior citizens to “show up and be nice” to kids. Honestly, this step goes a long way in connecting the generations.

  • Ask your church older people to utilize some of their resources to be generous and charitable with young people.

I get it that these action steps may have just turned much harder and more difficult to implement. But I’m really not talking here about finances or other tangible means of charitable giving. In many cases today, older people have the available resources of their time, some of their energy, or their life skills and experiences that they can share with young people. Older people can certainly pray. They can send prayer notes or encouragement cards. They may be able to bake cookies or brownies. They can share their personal testimony with younger people. My Mom invested in young people by showing some of the girls in her church how to make quilts. My Mother-in-Law used her musical skills to teach piano lessons. Really, the ideas are endless.

  • Schedule simple, yet creative ways to connect the generations for social, fellowship events in your church.

Your church can do this one easily. I know several churches that host enjoyable and beneficial inter-generational functions each year. I visited in one church recently that scheduled simple games nights each year with round tables set up in the church’s family room for table games, simple crafts, and fellowship. The ages were interspersed throughout the tables, and the youth group provided the refreshments, while the older people were encouraged to take the time to engage in personal and encouraging conversations.  

  • Plan opportunities for some of your church’s oldest and most faithful members to share their story of God’s faithfulness with the younger generations in your church.

Today’s younger generations love stories. Plus, your church undoubtedly has older members with lives of faithfulness to the Lord over several decades. Plan opportunities for some of your churches oldest people to meet with the younger people to share their story or testimony of how the Lord has worked in and through their lives. You will be amazed at how these simple times of connection will develop into growing and positive inter-generational relationships in your church.

These ideas are simple, yet they will not happen without church leaders actively getting involved in the process. This doesn’t mean you have to be in charge to institute these ideas, however. You can use whatever influence you have – including your own initiative and your own persuasive abilities to ask some of your church’s older generations to get involved.

You should also actively demonstrate to them that you sincerely care about them, that you want to hear their thoughts and concerns, and that you will do everything you can to encourage your church’s younger generations to show their love and concern for older people.

Trends Youth Workers Will Face This Year

in youth ministry by

Remember the familiar narrative in Acts 17 when the Apostle Paul used his personal observations of the city of Athens as a springboard for an opportunity to share the Gospel with the philosophers that were gathered at the Areopagus?

Youth workers – let’s apply this same action step as we make our final preparations for our youth groups this Fall. Let’s use our own observations to identify some of the cultural trends that are facing our kids, and then use those trends as opportunities to reach out to them and the households they are from.

The big difference here of course, is that Paul was a visitor in Athens – and we live in the communities in which we minister. But the same principles apply.

What’s going on in your community? Do you read the local newspaper, or watch the local news to get a glimpse of what your community leaders are saying? Why not schedule an appointment with the principal or superintendent of schools where the kids from your church attend? Have you done a demographic study of the population trends in your area?

(By the way, you can get a lot of that information free from sources like the US Census Bureau. For more information on how you can do that, you are invited to participate in my FREE Zoom webinar which will be held on Thursday, September 23 at 1 PM Eastern Time.)

What are the trends and the needs of your community? What are you seeing? What are you observing that may provide you with greater opportunities to share the Gospel or to minister to kids and the households they are from?

In preparation for my upcoming webinar, and in preparation for our church’s ministries this Fall, I have identified the following cultural trends that I want to share with you here.

(I am especially interested in knowing if you are seeing the same things. If so, I’d love to hear about it. Or if you are seeing other cultural trends that are facing today’s kids, please let me know about those things too. You can send me your thoughts at: mel@visionforyouth.com.) 

Some Cultural Trends Youth Workers Will Face This Year –

  • You will have kids in your group from a growing number of hurting households.

The demographic statistics in your community will probably prove this to be true. Members of Generation Z are from a rapidly increasing number of non-traditional, dysfunctional, and hurting households. (You can read more about the specifics in Generation Z: A Century in the Making, by Corey Seemiller and Meghan Grace, and Households of Faith: The Rituals and Relationship that Turn a Home into a Sacred Space, published by the Barna Group.) It is very likely that several kids in your group this Fall will be products of hurting households.

  • You will have to minister to kids who are from homes where church and religion are not that important.

Here’s another trend that you will most likely face this Fall: church and church programs are not a top priority in the lives and schedules of many of the families who attend your church. Some researchers have recently reported that many families that claim to be followers of Christ only attend weekend church programs approximately once per month.

I’ve met with several youth pastors recently who have shared with me that it is a struggle for them to get their teenagers to regularly attend youth group. Other things, like sports and work, are more important. It is becoming more likely that youth workers will have to find other creative means to connect with kids instead of thinking that today’s teenagers will faithfully attend church and youth group.

  • Several of the teens in your group will feel stressed, fearful, and uncertain.

You have undoubtedly read about this in recent news reports – and if you have personal relationships with many kids, you will know that this trend is true. Perhaps it is a result of the Covid crisis, or maybe it was happening anyway, but many of today’s youngest generations feel the stress of anxiety, fear, and uncertainty. Plus, the parents of your kids are facing these emotions too. This is a serious situation. The “mental health” of your young people is something very real. I’m thankful that we have the “living and powerful” Word of God that provides real answers for real-life situations!

  • Some of the kids in your group are facing difficult “identify” issues.

Here is another issue that youth workers will probably face this year. Today’s kids are being bombarded with “identity” issues in the media, in school, and from a variety of other sources. Most likely you will have kids in your group who are struggling with distorted or unrealistic perceptions of themselves. Again, it’s important to realize that our best resource to help kids with this is the truth of God’s Word, and the demonstration of the unconditional love of Christ.

  • Most of your students will need direction in finding their purpose in life.

Kids probably have always struggled with this one. I know this was something that I had to work through way back when I was a teenager – but this is even more pronounced now. Your students will be thinking about the big “purpose” questions of life. “Why am I here?” “What am I supposed to accomplish?” “What should I do with my life?” You should teach your group about knowing and doing God’s Will, but you should also have personal conversations with each teenager to help them identify what God wants them to do with their life.

Again, youth workers – I’m wondering what cultural trends you are seeing this year. Please let me know. You can send me a personal note at: mel@visionforyouth.com.

I will post an article soon that outlines some of the action steps I suggest that may help you deal with these cultural trends. Blessings!

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