St. Paul youth consists of Junior High (7th and 8th) and Senior High (9th-12th).
A Study of Exemplary Congregations in Youth Ministry found six factors that are vital to young people remaining in the life of the church after high school.
- The primary faith influence on the lives of youth was the degree to which faith was practiced in the home.
- Having three or more adults engaged in the youth’s life of faith.
- Three or more months of service as Christian practice.
- Being apprenticed into leadership of the congregation.
- Meaningful involvement in the life of the congregation.
- An excellent senior high and young adult ministry.
This study also “discovered that it is the culture of the whole church that is most influential in nurturing youth of vital Christian faith. The genius of these churches seems best described as a systemic mix of theology, values, people, relationships, expectations, and activities.”
Our goal is to incorporate all of these factors and/or offer opportunities in some capacity into our youth program. What we need to make this work is encouragement of our youth from their parents to participate and a willingness of both youth and parents to work with us to keep lines of communications open. We cannot know if something is not working for someone or consider ideas for improvement if it is not shared with me. This will be a work in progress and will not happen overnight. But if we work together as a team, we believe St. Paul can have one of the most vibrant youth ministries around. It is not something a youth director can do alone, it takes everybody involved as well as the community to support a ministry such as this.
Sunday youth faith formation
During Faith Trek, our junior high studies the small catechism and Old and New Testaments. This is part of the affirmation (confirmation) program. We use this time instead of having a separate time during the week to complete these studies. Even if a youth is not planning to complete affirmation, these lessons are still a necessary part of faith formation.
Our high school youth participates in a bible study curriculum and participates in conversations about current events.
We stress the importance of faith formation at home. We believe it starts in the home but the church is here to equip families to make faith formation a part of their daily lives. Attending Faith Trek regularly helps to ignite conversations at home and offers peer and leader support. It is the same as why we worship here at church instead of watching worship on TV. We come here to be a part of a Christ community in ministry together and to be equipped to go out into the world and be like Christ.
Fellowship and Service
St. Paul youth participates in monthly fellowship activities and service opportunities. These fellowship activities differ from Sunday nights as they usually will be somewhere other than St. Paul as will the service opportunities. In order to form well-rounded faith formation and daily Christian life, it is important to make these monthly events a priority. It is understandable that life gets in the way, but our hope is these become part of the lives of our young people and they begin to feel the blessings we gain from blessing others. Every single person’s participation makes a difference; either to the other youth, or to the people we serve.
Youth Group Night
New in 2014 is youth group night on certain Sunday evenings at 6:00-8:00 with once a month being a trip to OASIS to worship with them and every Wednesday evening 7:00-8:00. This time is an opportunity for the youth to grow in their faith together by having fellowship time, relevant games and movies and discussions to help them with struggles and concerns they may be experiencing in their day to day lives. After much research, we have found that offering this type of setting takes a church youth group to a whole new level.
Peer mentoring is a win-win situation. Younger youth look up to older youth and try to emulate them. Older youth are given the opportunity to be in a leadership position. Each junior high youth will be connected to a senior high peer mentor. Both parties have a commitment to each other throughout the year and will be encouraged to attend Sunday nights together, as well as service and fellowship events. Although they are from the same generation, it offers some of the same benefits of intergenerational relationships.
Intergenerational gatherings off all parties involved offers opportunities to learn from each other, regardless of age. In order to offer the opportunity of three or more adults to be engaged in a young person’s faith life, these gatherings can be incredibly helpful. Not only do the younger people benefit from the experience and knowledge of the older generations, but the older generations have the opportunity to grow in a new way through the younger generations.
As peer ministry is important, intergenerational gatherings will lead us to the next step which is grandparent mentors. During the intergenerational gatherings, we ask the youth to pay attention to people from the older generations that they feel a connection with. If both parties are willing, we would begin a mentorship partnership between them. What is great about this is the conversations and stories that are shared bring a fresh perspective to both parties. We envision the grandparent mentor being a source of encouragement and friendship to the youth but also the youth being a source of joy to the mentor. This also helps to eliminate an unintentional frequent occurrence; the youth not being greeted and called by name during Sunday worship. We, as a congregation, should always greet our youth and make them feel their presence there is wanted and needed.
Youth Sundays and Worship Participation
Placing youth in leadership positions is vital for their growth. They need the opportunity to stretch into areas that challenge them as well as being shown they are a necessary part of the congregation. We will begin having at least two youth Sundays each year and eventually do more. Some of our youth have already been trained as worship participants but all youth should be on the rotation as often as the adults. We are hoping for some of our senior high to step into the role of assisting minister and our junior high to acolyte, run the screen and be communion assistants and ushers.
7th and 8th grade youth ministry is often called “Affirmation,” and includes preparing interested youth for Affirmation of Baptism (which basically means saying yes to letting God love on us and using our lives to share the love of Christ). Click here to learn more.
Click here to learn more about what’s going on in 9th-12th grade youth ministry.
The following are some examples of what we do:
Lock-in with Captive Free
Hosting a soup lunch on Souper Bowl Sunday (junior high)
ELCA National Youth Gathering (high school)
Summer Mission Trip (high school)