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As your younger parishioners begin to approach puberty, you may notice that their interest in Sunday school, mass, and even church activities begins to waver. This is a normal rite of passage, as they begin on those final steps towards adulthood, and discovering who they want to be when they get there.
Rather than pulling back on church youth groups and activities geared for that age, you should be thinking about restructuring them to increase the appeal. These are your future primary congregants, and during the troubling teen years, you have a perfect opportunity to show how their religious background will always help lead them in the right direction.
Teens are facing new challenges, and need a safe place to work those out. When planning your youth group for them, keep the scheduling flexible, leaving plenty of time for "free" talk, either with the youth pastor or amongst themselves. Not every meeting has to be about Bible study; instead, make the main subject themes that are plaguing them now, like peer pressure, sex, and drugs, with references to religion and spirituality in the background.
A youth pastor does not need to be young, but should have plenty of energy and fresh ideas for how to interact with your younger church members. The person should also be aware of trends in society and how to work those into the meetings. The more relatable the youth pastor is to the kids that join, the more likely they will be to keep going back.
Kids today are sophisticated, and know more at their age then we give them credit for. Don't talk down to teenagers, rather, treat them like the young adults that they are. When they have questions, answer them, and when they are offering their own insight, make sure that you are listening. At this age, kids have more respect for adults who talk frankly and treat them with respect. By putting this into practice, you are developing a youth group the young members will feel comfortable being a part of.
Don't forget that these are kids who are growing up in the middle of what we call the age of technology. Integrate modern technology into the youth ministry, and you'll be amazed at the increase in interest. Let them design pages for the church web page, or give them research assignments that they can do through online searches.
You can also take advantage of modern technology to communicate better with the youth group when meetings are not scheduled. Create a Facebook page where they can chat and share ideas from home. Use text message services to send them messages about meetings and other activities. That can be done with ease using a mass notification system such as DialMyCalls that is able to send a message to multiple people at the same time.
Teenagers are more inclined to read a text message than any other form of communication. Using this type of service to reach out to them will definitely grab their attention.
Don't let diminishing numbers in attendance discourage you from offering a youth group to your younger church members. Adapt your program to meet the needs and interests of teenagers today, and they will be happy to keep up with their religious and spiritual education.
Our thanks to Lauren Hunter of ChurchTechToday for permission to reprint this piece. This article originally appeared on ChurchTechToday's website.
Tim Smith was born and raised in south Florida, which explains why he loves the beach and is an avid fisherman. Tim finds joy in writing and is currently the social media guru and support manager for DialMyCalls.
Image 1: Peter Karlsson / CC BY
Image 2: ChurchTechToday