Last Sunday, my wife and I were hanging out with a teenager who is a part of our church’s youth ministry. She’s a great young woman with a heart full of Jesus and a good head on her shoulders. While we were sitting around eating lunch we started joking about my most recent birthday and everyone wound up sharing their ages. I can’t believe she was born after the year 2000. She never saw the World Trade Center standing. She never saw Michael Jordan play basketball, and 90’s music is her oldies. Still, we’re developing a relationship with her because relationships are the source of all ministry.
Building relationships with young people takes time and intentionality. Young people think, act and dress differently than we do. And although they may seem to resist efforts to develop relationships, they crave them.
Here are some tips that work for building relationships with youth
Get on their level. Jesus left a perfect Heaven and came to the muddy earth so that we could connect with Him. He got down in the mud so that we could know Him. Don’t be afraid to enter their world and get muddy as you involve yourself in their lives.
Go to their games, concerts, and plays. The more you’re around them, the more you’ll be seen as part of their lives. You’ll also have things to talk about the next time you meet up.
Study them. Find out what music they like, who their heroes are, what books they like, the sports they play, and the movies they watch. Use this information to build relational bridges you both can cross.
Listen to them. Learn to ask opened ended questions and let them talk. Ask them for advice and input on church and personal things. You’ll get to know who they are and how you can connect with them.
Hold back some of your “advice.” You’re going to have a ton of advice to give, and they both need and want it. However, don’t over do it or you’ll lose your platform. Don’t feel like you need to give it all away every time you hang out.
Play with them. Get out on the basketball court, get in the pool, go fishing, play some volleyball, and learn to play video games. Let them see how a Jesus follower lives his or her life outside of the church building.
Do fun things. Take trips, go to concerts, host barbecues, or go to the movies. The slower summer months are great times to connect with young people outside of the traditional youth services, Sunday school classes, small groups, or bible studies.
What do you do to connect with the youth in your church?