Being a young youth pastor has advantages and disadvantages. One advantage that I have and want to use to its fullest (while I have it!) is the fact that it’s only been a few years since I sat right where your teens sit. I remember vividly what it was like to be a teen, not because I have a good memory but because it was not even a decade ago.
One story is burned into my memory. I was home schooled through most of high school, but through Pastor Bruce Goddard I was allowed to start attending Faith Baptist Academy in Wildomar the second semester of my junior year. The first time I was being introduced to the campus was in the afternoon of a typical class day, and we walked around to the basketball courts where the team was having practice. As soon as I rounded the corner with my family and a couple school staff members, the neatest thing happened. Without a word from the coaches or teachers, every guy on that basketball court walked directly to me, formed a group, introduced themselves and welcomed me! I was shocked! Their manners were cordial, and they immediately struck me as great young men that I wanted to make my friends.
As I started school shortly thereafter, not knowing anyone, they were friendly and helpful all the way. I’m talking about the students… not just the teachers! Even though they’d all grown up together, had made tight friendships and built memories with their church group, they welcomed me as if I’d been there all along. I don’t know if I can describe how much that meant to me in high school. I wanted so badly to make more Christian friends that would help push me to Christ, and while some of that responsibility rested on me, much of the reason for my friendships was that THEY were friendly to ME.
Another great example that I’ve seen took place just a couple months ago. We took a few of our teens on a last-minute trip up to Lancaster Baptist Church for a Youth Rally. After we registered we sat in our pew waiting for the Rally to begin. While we sat there waiting, people kept coming up to us, getting all our names, welcoming us, telling us they were glad we were there, and generally being friendly. My wife and I ribbed our teens and said, “Did you notice that? Are you taking notes? Didn’t you enjoy being greeted?” It was something simple but very effective, in my opinion. Teens were just going around the audience and greeting people they didn’t know! Sure, we got asked some of the same questions, and sure, we told them our names over and over; but it was totally okay because we felt welcomed. What a blessing!
Those two examples are NOT extreme and impossible. In fact, they are very simple. Love people. Be friendly. Train (or force) yourself to show it. That’s simple enough!
Guests attend our class all the time, and a certain faction of our teens will greet them and be friendly. The friendliest ones are our seniors who’ve trained themselves over the years to be friendly to guests, but **sniff, sniff** we’re losing them soon. Maybe some parents don’t notice, don’t care, or don’t know how to encourage their kids this way, but I hope you intentionally approach this subject with your teen.
I see them each week in a setting apart from parents. In the class setting (and often in a personal setting) I try to train them, but you’ll be more effective than I will be. We’ve already seen them greeting people in class and even mingling with the church during hand-shaking time, and I’d LOVE to eventually see every teen being more and more friendly.
I preached a message in youth group and then wrote an article on the website regarding guests, and my hope is that YOU 1) read it, 2) internalize it, 3) model it, then 4) teach it. The article simply taught our teens to treat guests right: 1) Love them. 2) Greet them. 3) Relate with them. 4) Continue with them.
Maybe a guest is looking for Christ. Maybe he or she is new to the church and wants to just fit in. What teen will invite the guest to sit with him? What teen will save a guy a seat in church? What girl will talk to the “new kid” when she’s awkwardly sitting there by herself?
Parents… PLEASE teach your teens to have a mindset of outreach. Model to them what it’s like to see a guest (or someone who’s new to the church), and walk up and have conversation. Train them on what to say to a guest: “What’s your name? It’s nice to meet you. Thanks for coming today. Do you live around here? Oh… what school do you go to? Really? We have a few people here that go to that school. __________ plays sports, ________ is in marching band…” Even if they went through the SAME list with every new person, that’s more than most people are doing, and the guest won’t know the difference!
While it’s not necessarily my purpose here to give scenarios for every situation, I want to at least challenge you to 1) model this behavior and 2) encourage it in your child. They will only be helped as they learn to love others enough to think outside their own lives, and our church will be helped as others are brought in and welcomed to our body.
Thank you again for allowing us the chance to help. If we can assist you in any way, please let us know. Have a great week!