Schools provide more than just academic learning for students. They also provide an environment for young people to develop different gifts and skills that they can then use out in society. The school environment helps nurture and form students through opportunities of co-curricular activities, leadership and mentoring.
Recently, I attended the commissioning of Pastor Samuel Sadrata into his chaplaincy role at Knox Grammar School. While this was a celebration of Sam’s commissioning, I couldn’t help but notice two things.
1. The involvement of the students throughout the commissioning service
It was obvious that the students at Knox were involved with the preparation of the commissioning service. Each student that took part had written out their own parts and knew when it was their turn.
2. I was taken back to when I was a student and remembered the opportunities my school provided in leadership and worship.
When in leadership in my senior years of high school, as student leaders we were trusted with responsibilities to organise and run assemblies, chapel, and certain school events. As well as being given the space to explore and make decisions as young leaders, we always had teachers we could turn to, to ask for advice and seek wisdom and guidance from. Looking back, this personally formed not only the foundation of my leadership experience, but also helped nurture the person that I am today.
Transposing this into a congregation setting can allow young people to participate more in the life of the church. Some congregations may already be doing this, but for those that aren’t I encourage 3 things that we can learn from schools, especially Christian schools:
Involve young people in the planning and preparation of worship.
This can look different in different places. You can start with conversations about what they connect with during worship. Do they connect with music the most? Bible readings? Children’s stories? Videos? Take the time to ask and listen to the ways young people connect and incorporate that into your next service.
Remember, you don’t have to overwhelm young people with ALL the responsibilities of planning worship. It isn’t helpful for your expectations of young people to go from 0 to 100. It is important to take it one step at a time.
Doing this consistently allows young people to feel included, heard and valued members of your church.
Give space for young people to take part during worship.
After conversations and planning worship, allow space for young people to take on roles during the service. This can range from reading the bible, sharing a story, praying, or even involving them with the sermon.
Similar to involving them with planning worship, allow young people the space to grow into taking part. Don’t just rush them in to do a scripture reading, but encourage them and be consistent in allowing opportunities of participation that can look different each Sunday.
Build healthy relationships with young people and be mentors.
Communities are filled with parents, adults and elders who all have their own life experiences, gifts and skills. There are great opportunities for adults in the community to build healthy relationships with young people and even mentor young people as they go through different stages of their young lives. There is such great value in being trusted adults outside of the parental role, where young people can turn to you and ask for advice that they sometimes feel they can’t ask from their parents.
It is so important to be active in your engagement with young people in your communities, in all aspects.
It is never too late to start.
Allow space for young people to learn and grow, not just in school, but at church too.
Ofa Foiakau is the Youth/High School Ministry Lead and Field Officer (Central/West) within the PULSE team.