Wanted: Leaders of Teens

posted Oct 24, 2012, 10:10 AM by Amelia Fannin   [ updated Oct 24, 2012, 10:10 AM by in apropos ]
Teenagers are a unique and wonderful group of human beings.  Sometimes they are challenging, but so would you be if you had to do all they do.  They still need and love their parents, but it's time for them to learn how to do things without them, and to find other adult mentors.  They need the opportunity both to lead, and to have the space to learn from their mistakes (as do we all). They are discovering the skills and interests, and the challenges that will be part of their future lives.  They have to learn how they fit in with their peers, when to modify their behavior to fit the group, and when to disagree to maintain their own identity. They are deciding what they believe in, and whether they agree with what they have been brought up to believe in.  They are also growing physically and psychologically, which is more or less a full time job.  And then, on top of all this, they go to school every day, do homework, take part in choirs and drama and dance lessons and sport - and of course, church.

The group of teens at Grace Church is slowly, quietly growing.  The main area of leadership that they fulfill is in acolyting.  Every child and teen, from 5th grade to Senior, is on the Acolyte Rota.  We have about seven members in Youth Group on Sundays, plus those on the altar.  At present their main task is clearing out the small room just to the right at the top of the stairs.  They are emptying it out, separating the wheat from the chaff, and carefully preserving important materials, which will be re-stored in the basement.  After that we will find furnishings for the room, ideally beanbags and cushions, so that the teens can call this room their own.  They also begin each session by reading, at their own pace, a section of the bible.  They have started on St Mark's gospel, the shortest, and also the first written.  Some of them have never read the bible consistently before.  Some have not had the chance to find their own meaning in it.  Some want to ask questions, both practical and philosophical.

But the thing that our teens, and teens in most churches, care about most is Social Justice.  If you were around when they respectfully but firmly requested donations for their Kiva micro-lending project, or when they produced a wonderful Bake Sale, you saw how motivated they were.  Kiva is particularly effective because it is an ongoing process.  Some of their donors have now returned their loan, and the group is able to re-invest it.  But they are still eager to raise more funds, so that they can support more people and be a part of breaking the cycle of poverty.  This is a way that teens, who are often not given opportunities to make a difference, can really make a contribution.  The teens have a wonderful leader in David Barbrow, and different people join him as a helper each week, but what we really need is one or two other people who could commit to the ministry of working with teens.  

What does this ministry take?  The ability to be a mentor rather than a leader, to lead with a gentle hand, and stand back when teens are doing an excellent job themselves.  The ability to be flexible, and change plans according to the need of the group.  The ability to see God in the testing, questioning, sometimes unconfident, sometimes agressive, ways of teens.  If you think this might be your calling, pray on it.  Think on it.  Talk to David Barbrow or to Fiona Vidal-White.  Sign up as a helper for a few weeks to get to know the group. Don't worry if you don't feel "qualified".  God has a habit of calling those to ministries for which they don't feel entirely qualified.  True, other skills might be a bonus - an interest in Social Justice issues, or creative skills, or organizing skills - but the greatest of these is the willingness to show the love of God to our growing youth, our growing church.