A Follow-Up: Welcoming Young People in Our Congregations

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Last week, we had a guest blogger for the Youth Network who did a wonderful job reminding us of the subtle and not-so-subtle ways we label young people and keep them at arm’s length in our congregations. If you didn’t read it, you should check it out.

So, if we are going to own this challenge we have with making young people feel welcome, what are we going to do about it?

At the risk of over-simplifying what can be very complicated relationships, I believe it always comes down to making individuals feel accepted. In this case, we are talking about young people, but it also holds true with seekers who wander into our churches.

Young people can tell in a second if youth leaders or members of the congregation disapprove of them or their looks, actions and comments. Students might be invited to congregational meetings or even some planning events, but if they are not treated as equals or at least as church members with meaningful input, they aren’t going to buy in to the process. We can’t love our young people too much. We can’t show our acceptance in too many ways.

So am I right about this?  Is it this simple? Any youth leaders, pastors or parents out there have another perspective? Do any of you have ideas or suggestions to make our young people feel welcome and accepted? If you have some ideas, please share them.

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I think you can be expressing disagreement with various looks, actions, or comments of young people, while still accepting them.    That should also be possible in return as well, where they may disapprove of certain philosophies, songs, formalism or whatever of older people, while still accepting the older people as brothers and sisters in christ.   If none of us has anything to learn from each other, then the body of christ starts to get weak and shallow.   But our disapprovals or disagreements ought to be in a spirit of respect for their youth and their still growing faith and life, with trust in God to bring it to fruition.  

By and large, if you want to attract the young people, spend time talking with them.   Find out what they are doing.   Don't assume a paternalistic attitude.   But also don't apologize for your beliefs.   Give them something to feel worth belonging to. 

Participant

I agree with John, and add that listening to young people, encouraging participation and letting them know you want them to be active participants is vital to the longevity of their adult involvement in church.

After high school contacts are a vulnerable timefor youth and if the church is intentional about 'tracking' progress when they go off to college, start careers or stray away most young people will continue to feel 'connected.'

For me because I participated in worship, sunday school, choir and youth activities I didn't 'stray away' in my twenties.

And with my now adult children, I encouraged extolled and cajolled them through their teen years to stay active at church and they still are participants in their 30's and 40's, thank God!