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.