We often only see our youth at church or for special events. Yet I think that is not enough time for building strong relationships that grow a youth group in faith and fellowship. That’s why I think communication is a ministry.
At our church, we have a mix of youth from church families and friends of the youth whose families do not attend the church. All are welcome! During youth group meetings the youth share and reach out to each other during the meeting. But once they are out the door, everyone goes back to their schools and family. The joy and support of the relationships are often left at the door.
I want our youth to know that God is in their daily lives not just on Sunday. Thanks to the fact that most youth have their own phone I am able to share God’s love often during the week.
Here are a few ways I connect.
1. Postal Ministry - Once a month I send out post cards to each youth with personal messages. Youth rarely receive snail mail. Many of them post the cards in their rooms.
2. Calling Ministry - A few times a year, I call when I think I may reach a real person. I always have a "reason” for calling. That helps us start the conversation. Then I may ask what is going on with them. Many of the youth are so happy that someone they know wants to listen to them. The ones who say "Nothing," I ask a question that does not have a one word answer. Some of the calls are very short; some are long. All are worth the time.
3. Texting Ministry: Group - I go out of my way to collect the cell phone number and email of each youth and all parents. I send out the youth schedule in the fall. Then I text out the reminder to them a few days before an event or meeting. I text about 8-10 youth at a time. That way they encourage each other to show up. I include a few of the regulars with a few of the now-and-then youth to each group of texting groups. The turnout is often great thanks to the texts.
4. Texting Ministry: Individuals - I listen and learn at our meetings. After they head home, I list who and what was said about someone else or what they said about themselves. This is so important as my memory is gone by then. Then throughout the week, I will text the youth with a simple thought or question. When they respond I will ask if they want to get together or chat over the phone. The youth who do not want to talk, I respect that. I also continue to text them when it is appropriate.
As I text the youth I start and end with prayer for them and their family. I really enjoy the time set aside to make those texts.
5. Email Ministry - I continue to go old school and email the parents and the youth. Many of the youth don’t read their emails often. But when they do, they know I have been thinking of them.
6. Ministering by communicating with family - Communicating with the families, either with group emails of youth news or a personal check in, is important too. I am so often asking them for help or money. But when I ask them how they are doing, like their youth, they are happy to have some one ask and care. I contact each parent through whatever channel that they prefer.
Please keep in mind that I do not do use all these forms of communicating each week. Pastoral care through the phone, online, or in person is a special part of our ministry. It is so important that we set limits and take care of other parts of our job as well as our personal life. We need to continue our conversations with God. We need to continue to ask others for their support. We are mentoring to our youth through action and social media as we practice reaching out to them. Plus we are showing them through our behaviors that it is important to take care of our selves too.
These ideas are what I have found to work for our youth families and my ministry. What works for your youth? For your ministry? I would appreciate if you would share your communicating success with all of us too.