September 12, 2017

Back-To-Church: Youth Outreach

September is back-to-school month for many of our youth. There is much anticipation and preparation by parents, students, teachers and retailers for this once a year event. Schools send out reminders about schedules, meals, and activities. Teachers spruce up classrooms and take refresher courses. Parents buy clothing and supplies and figure out transportation needs. Students look forward to reuniting with friends and negotiating for the latest computers, backpacks, sneakers etc. from their parents.

September is also an opportunity for us to have a back-to-church month for our youth with the same vigor and anticipation for Sunday School and youth activities. How are we doing? The leadership of the church including our vestry and clergy, not just the youth ministry leaders, should be intimately involved in this youth outreach. Many of us bemoan the lack of youth in our congregations but do not make it a priority in our planning.

There are many strategies that congregations with successful youth ministries develop. They include budgeting adequate financial resources for the youth, assigning experienced, interested persons to work with the youth, ensuring clergy involvement in the Sunday School curriculum and youth programming. Also engaging the music director as a valued partner when youth initiatives are planned. In addition, arranging for youth to be involved in the many aspects of church as readers, ushers, members of the vestry or volunteers in outreach programs is crucial.

Back-to-church planning for these congregations includes reaching out to members and the surrounding community to invite them to bring children, grand-children and neighbors for a youth-oriented fun-filled reception. The purpose is to introduce the curriculum, teachers and schedule for Sunday School and other youth activities. It is also an opportunity to solicit from parents their supplementary needs for mentors, tutors, after-school support etc. All this planning is in anticipation of the Sunday in September when the youth programming starts anew and launches or continues their Christian journey.

Lastly is important to review and update the youth programming ongoing with creative ideas to ensure that it motivates interest and participation.