Thanksgiving is just around the corner for those of us over here in the USA. Even though I am British, I still love this holiday since it brings families together and gives us all a chance to breathe before the run up to Christmas. With family in mind, today I would like to challenge you to consider how the idea of family should be threaded through the DNA of your youth ministry. Let me explain what I mean:
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1
There is an abundance of scripture that refers to God as our Father, His people as His children, and the many references to family. It is in the very design of every human being to be a part of God’s family and to be in relationship with Him and our family around us. It is foundational design that every church and organization should be fully aware of as they design environments that help people feel a sense of belonging to a family. Doug Fields once said, “Until a student is environmentally comfortable, he or she will not be theologically aware.” Or another way of putting this:
When students experience ‘family,’ they will better understand the voice of their Father, and live to please Him.
Therefore, in a healthy youth ministry, the team, environments, curriculum, and vision all need to communicate family and sense of being ‘at home.’ Without an environment of family, students will seek out family in other ways and places.
- Team: An effective leader, teacher or mentor is someone who is able to live and breathe the God’s design for family. Families go on a journey together, fight for each other, sacrifice for each other, and love each other in good and bad times. It does not matter how brilliant a youth worker is unless he or she is able to build familial trust and exude familial authenticity with his or her hearers. Students are looking for family even if they don’t know it; an effective team displays family in all they do.
- Environments: Youth ministries are well advised to utilize homes for small groups and create spaces that feel more like home and less like a classroom. Comfy furniture, to warm colors, fun artwork, and even the smell of fresh coffee and donuts, all communicate a place where students can belong and be a part of the family. Most students don’t instantly make this connection; they simply feel this connection. This is why corporations like Starbucks have warm colors, leather couches, and natural artwork to create a feeling of a home from home. Churches would be well-instructed to follow the corporation’s lead on creating a family feel.
- Curriculum: A ‘Family Driven’ curriculum allows the learner interact with his or peers in a way that is full of life experience and life application. Just as a family grows, changes, and adjusts for the various seasons of life, a good curriculum allows the participants to share, reflect, and engage with curriculum just as a family would interact with any other issue of life. Therefore, there should be a natural and normal feel to what is being learned within the curriculum. There should also be an intentional focus on helping students to understand, identify with, and experience family.
- Vision: A constant vision for growth as a family should be on the radar of the youth worker. Recurring references to God’s family, God’s children, and words that communicate family, all add to creating a vision and environment that exudes family.
How do you make your youth ministry feel like family?