sermon engagement

Lost in Transition

You might know that I have been interested in helping young people transition to adult faith for a while now. There are some key transitions that we seem to lose young people from the life of the church. One of those is transitioning from “Sunday school” to wider church participation. There is one school of thought that we shouldn’t have sunday school at all that we should do the whole of our church life as an “all age” or “family based” model. I have some sympathy with these approaches, but most of the churches I know don’t have these in place and so we need incremental ways to help these churches integrate their young people into the wider church.

Our local church has been experimenting with some ways to do this – we haven’t got it cracked – we are still on a journey but i thought it would be good to share with you our thinking – so you can comment and together we can come up with some good models.

1. Hanging out

we are looking into ways that young people can spend time with ordinary people in the church – and so once a month there are separate boys and girls groups for 13 year olds and up. They are pretty relaxed evenings that take place in homes. There’s lots of games, crafts, competitions and food. There’s no agenda or programme. The hope is that through spending time together in joint activity relationships will develop. There’s definitely room for some intentionality in these groups – as some adults find it easier than others to initiate conversation with young people about life, faith, school etc. But its a great start and the young people look forward to it.

2. School integration

I run an afterschool outreach and discipleship group, which has both Christians as well as young people who are exploring the Christian faith. The group involves doughnuts and fizzy drinks and a lively discussion about life and faith. I try to tie in what we discuss with what I know is coming up on the school curriculum. The young people look at “Where was God in the holocaust” at this time of year and so that will be our topic of discussion for the next couple of weeks. Its a great way to help young people learn how to integrate their studies and their faith and to learn how to share their faith with their friends.

3. Helping rotas

At its best this has lead to some of our younger teens having an adult teach them a skill that plays to a strength that they have. We have seen some young people take over the PA and audio visuals, others drum, others take on teaching responsibilities in the Sunday school. I have some precious memories of watching some of the young people being encouraged and supported by the more shy members of the congregation and both adults and children growing in relationship and confidence together.

4. Mentoring table in the church service

We are trying hard to help our young people transition into the “adult” sermon in our church services. As a half way house we have put together a “Youth mentoring table” where a leader hosts the table with young people sat together around it in the “main service.” This morning I was in charge of helping out and with our younger teens (12 to 14 year olds) I asked them to spider diagram the sermon. I explained how to do it before the sermon started and debriefed it a little bit at the end. They did a great job and definitely stayed focussed for the whole time. This kind of Kinesthetic learning where there is some active participation – reprocessing of the flow the information of the sermon worked for a number of the children. I will try this for a few weeks so the develop the skill and then mix it up to try some other ways to engage them . I am really open to learn from you guys – so let me know the things you have been trying.

sermon engagement
Yes Haribo helped too…

7 thoughts on “Lost in Transition”

  1. Krish, I love the “Mentoring table” concept and glad that worked. Personally, the thing that helped me transition best was having mentoring. Particularly one lady who met regularly with me and let me ask the tough questions, muse through life and also shared with me some of her own struggles. I’ll never forget the time she shared how she had felt burdened about not praying regularly, so she started creating ways to pray (eg: Whenever she made toast, she’d pray for her family, whenever she hoovered the house she’d pray for her church etc). In Sunday School we are taught ideals, to me the important part of transitioning is realizing that the ideal is not yet here and learning what we can do to strive towards righteousness. The teen years are also the time when we begin to discover individual differences, so having group sessions is great, but many teens will want individual relationships and that’s where I think one-on-one mentoring is a critical part of transitioning.

  2. Hi, Krish. Some great ideas. Thanks. We’re thinking about this very issue in our church at the moment. Quick question: could you explain the rationale behind having “separate boys and girls groups” for the “hang out” evenings? Thanks again!

    1. Thanks for your comment. It wasn’t my decision. But I think the idea was by having men and bits hanging out and girls and women meeting separately there would be a greater openness to talk about relationships etc. Everything else we do as a church is mixed so this just offer another alternative.

  3. Way back, when I was a teenager in the early 60s, my church had a Youth Forum which met every Sunday afternoon. Our membership was concentrated around mid teens with 30 or more attending every week. There was a cutoff in the early 20s yet we were trusted to conduct our own meetings and set our agenda. Adults only appeared to open up the church buildings for us – and then went home. Was there a risk? Of course but never any problems.

    After a few months of this, Sunday became morning service, home for a very rapid lunch, back to church for Youth Forum, evening service and then together to a local cafe. This was the basis of one’s friendships and social life.

    What worked was being trusted and allowed to grow in faith together. We also did community service together but at our own instigation.

    A second strand could be based on the concept of ‘natural theology’. First proposed by Greek philosophers but developed by one of the founders of botany, the Rev John Ray. It’s very simple, we learn about our Creator through ‘critically’ reading the scriptures and also by learning more about his Creation. Thus the ‘divide’between science and religion vanishes and we learn of God by seeing the beauty, complexity and magnificence of his created universe.

      1. Not at all. The level of trust given earned trust in the, then, Congregational Church, in general, and the local church, in particular. This was a youth community that recognised itself as belonging within the wider church and celebrated that belonging.

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