Fall is a stressful time. It is easy for families to be overbooked before the fall has even started.
Teams, school, and music all take the lead. Youth group and church are often the “if we have nothing else to do” choices. Church event are rarely marked on the schedule, or if they are, they are often the first to be dropped if something else comes along.
The message people tell me is “As a church, we are supposed to help our families, not stress them out with more to do events!” And there’s some truth to that.
But that’s why I send out a letter with the schedule of events. In the letter I emphasize:
- All are welcome;
- The issue of stress and the pressure to fit everything in;
- That they are not alone – everyone is scrambling;
- The importance of what youth group has to offer that’s different from other extracurriculars.
I also give them some tools to make church/youth group a part of their life during the coming year.
- I offer a family night for youth and parents to attend together;
- I suggest that as a family they pick what events they will attend;
- I personally highlight on the schedule a few events or meetings that may appeal to that kid;
- I encourage them to set a goal of what they would like to accomplish spiritually this year.
Ideally, I’d love for families to set a goal to attend two events a month, but I’ve found that if they set that goal and don’t come, it’s that much harder for them to attend the next time out of embarrassment. So what kind of spiritual goals can they set that aren’t about do, do, do, or running from one place to the next?
A spiritual goal doesn’t have to be based on accomplishment, which is something a lot of the kids I work with need to hear. It’s based on how they want to grow as a person of faith – even if they don’t know how or if it’s happening. If, for example, they want to be able to handle school performance pressure better as a spiritual goal, is there anything on the schedule that will help them explore that? Or is there something on the schedule that makes them think, “Hey, this would be good for me to think about more generally,” and then consider what else might help them with this spiritual goal.
About the schedule: It is so important to get a schedule out. I do mine through Ash Wednesday. I email it to parents and kids by mid-August if possible. I also send snail mail too and print the schedule on bright colored paper!
The fall is sooo pressure-filled for everyone – youth leaders included. Here’s a goal for you, too: Don’t overload the youth schedule. You don’t need to meet every week with a completely brand-new invented program. Pace yourself.
Remember, your actions speak louder than words. So teach them with actions and practice what we preach. Are we preaching that you don’t need to earn love through accomplishments? Then maybe we shouldn’t create a youth program that’s based on earning the church’s love through our accomplishments. A slower pace of fun and faith are very effective.
Our youth are so pressured to get all A’s and always be at the top of their game. Offer them a place to relax, be themselves, and get to know others and God. Their best stress relief there is having God and a community of faith to hang with.