Last weekend I was fortunate to go to something very unique, my youth group’s reunion. That’s right, some 15 years after many of us graduated 50 of us gathered together for a night of reconnecting, dinner and worship. Some of us traveled great distances to be there, including my own youth pastor. We even had our old worship band play some of their old tunes. Singing those songs in our old youth room with my old friends really brought me back to those formative years in my faith.
As I was interacting with my friends I was reminded that one day my current students will graduate, get married and become adults just like we did. Through the conversations I was hit with some themes that made me reflect on how I do youth ministry.
Theme # 1 – Special Ingredients.
Throughout the night people kept talking about what made our youth ministry so great. They talked about how everyone was welcome, no matter who they were and what school they went too. They talked about how everyone experienced God’s grace at a deep level. This is what drew people to our youth group. I hope I never take for granted how powerful a warm, accepting ministry can be for a growing ministry.
Theme # 2 – Life after youth group.
Many of my friends had found it hard to connect with the church and it wasn’t because they didn’t try. The community they found so compelling in high school was lacking as an adult in the church. Some had even experienced deep wounds by church leadership. I was reminded that the faith formation of teenagers requires that we help them connect in the larger church body. It also requires that we prepare them for the inevitable reality that they will be disappointed by the church because it is filled with broken people just like you and me.
Theme # 3 – Life will get hard.
So many of my friends shared about how they “needed” our reunion. There were those who had gone through divorce and others who lost parents. I heard about shattered dreams and broken hearts. For many, these wounds left them disillusioned about God’s presence in their lives. Our reunion was an opportunity for them to be reminded that the God who worked in their hearts as teens is still with us today. I think most youth ministries fail to adequately prepare teens for the reality of living in a broken world. We paint the picture that if we follow Jesus, life will be rosy and fun. When life gets rough, they question their God because we didn’t do a good job of helping them encounter Jesus in the midst of their pain.
I don’t know if I’ll ever get to have a reunion with any of my youth groups, but I hope that I lead mine knowing that I will leave a legacy. I hope that our ministry will be known for displaying Jesus’ amazing grace and helping teens embrace Jesus through the ups and downs of the rest of their lives.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.theyouthministryblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/LibickHawaiiChristmasPhoto.jpeg[/author_image] [author_info]Kevin Libick is a Middle School Pastor living in Fort Worth, TX with his wife Kara and her two cats. He is a novice banjo picker and expert Hawaiian food eater. Kevin loves to connect with other youth workers and equip them to live out their calling in God’s Kingdom. Connect with Kevin on Twitter: @kevinlibick[/author_info] [/author]