Developing an EPIC Generation - Connected

This is the last part of our EPIC Generation series. We have covered  ExperientialParticipatory and Image-Rich, and today we will close off with Connected.

You can not deny that this is a connected generation. For as long as I have been in youth ministry, teenagers have been social creatures, some of them struggle with this area but it is part of this stage. They often define themselves by the people they choose to hang out with (and the ones they choose not to hang with) but with the introduction of social media, smart phones etc, this has taken on a different level.

We won't get into the challenges of social media and smart phones, and the research that is indicating a connected but isolated generation, that is for another post. What we can acknowledge is that teenagers are used to learning and processing in a connected and relational way. So we need to actively incorporate that aspect into our ministries, not just in teaching times but in other aspects of our environment and programming. 

What could it look like? Just like the article about participation, in your preaching/teaching times you could make opportunities to pause to have the youth connect, maybe to discuss something or do something. We all know that young people are busy and can be overly scheduled, so creating space in your programming where they can just hang out with friends will be something of value to your young people.

I would also encouage you to build intergenerational connection into your ministry philosophy and programming. The research indicates that young people who have meaningful connections with other generations in their church are more likely to maintain their faith after they graduate high school. The ideas on this are endless but a few that immediate ones are:

  • Have youth serving on church teams - creative, tech, hosting, kids ministry etc
  • Have a range of generations on your volunteer team
  • Host youth vs adult events for fun
  • Connect a youth with an adult who might be able to assist with a life challenge, for example if a young person is thinking about a particular career path then connect them with someone in a similar role to help them explore this.
  • Have intentional events. We used to have a "Fridge Clean-out" night where adults and families in the church would open their homes and youth would go and have dinner with them. 

 

I would encourage you to have times of unstructured connection and other times of structured connection in your weekly programs. Structured connection could include things like:

  • a discussion around an issue and possible solutions
  • a Bible study around a theme or scripture where everyone gets to share and respectfully ask questions
  • It has more risk, but a well facilitated debate can increase connection. People can share their opinion (sometimes passionately) and as long as the discussion stays on the topic and doesn't involve personal attacks then the young people can be heard and hear others. The young people need to understand that we can disagree on some things and still remain friends.

If well managed these things allow youth to express themselves, be heard, hear from others and not be judged (hopefully). That builds connection and develops our young people. How this looks will depend on your context but it is something we should be thinking about.

Have a look at your program and teaching times and ask yourself, how can we help build real and meaningful connection?

 

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