All churches desire children, youth and young people.
The Rev. Mike Ratliff, Associate General Secretary of Young People’s Ministries at the General Board of Discipleship, wrote an article that appeared in the United Methodist Reporter. He provides several strong suggestions toward strengthening local churches’ ministries with youth.
One of those suggestions is to know the names of youth, call them by name, and know what is going on in their world. All of us know the importance of being called by name. Who would want to be known as that kid that sits on the back row each Sunday or the young person who acolytes several Sundays a year? We want to know that people know who we are and youth want this as much as anyone else.
Perhaps even more important, Ratliff suggests that we pray for this young person every day. Not only do we pray for them, but you get to know them well enough to pray for the issues or struggles that are important to them. These youth need to know we are praying for them, concerned about the issues they are facing, and supportive of them as they seek to be faithful to Jesus Christ. We also could let them know they are missed when they are unable to be in worship. It feels good to know that someone besides your parents really cares about you.
I wonder, instead of praying for one young person, if each of us also could pray for one of their friends. Young people prefer other young people around.
We no longer can assume that young people know what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. They need support and help as they walk daily with Jesus. They need to know what it means to be the Church and not just attend church services. They need to know that someone loves and cares about them.
Some of the most significant people in my life, outside of my family, were individuals in the congregation that I attended that I knew cared about me, knew me by name and prayed for me. I can still call them by name and rejoice they were part of my spiritual journey.
If you want to discover other ways to strengthen your congregation’s ministry to young people, please contact Dara Bell (New Mexico Conference Office) or the Rev. Susan Brown (Northwest Texas Conference Office). They are willing to help all congregations discover better ways to minister to and with young people in our communities.