Have you ever really thought about how to make a difference in the lives of the teenagers of your community? I'm talking about the students outside of your church walls. The students who will never, on their own, ever show up for one of your events or outreaches. Reaching these students can be done, but you might need to think bigger than you have in the past. You might need to consider what it takes not just to reach individual teenagers, but to become a true resource for your community. What if your church were known in your community as a place where teenagers could go to find hope, purpose, and community? It's a big task.However, if becoming a true resource to your community is something that you and your church are passionate about, here are 10 steps to get you started.
Put your own ideas and plans asideYou may have an awesome, amazing, brilliantly innovative idea. But if it isn't the right idea for the community it makes little difference. Shelve any ideas until you do your homework.
Survey your communityWhat does your community really need? Or at least what do people in your community feel they need? To answer this, consider surveying three groups outside your congregation: Young people, parents/guardians of young people, & community leaders.
Meet with anyone who will make time for youIt's essential to get the information from those who have it. Find out who else works on youth issues, what is being done, what has been done in the past, and what they would like to see in the future.
Interact with the students on the streetsWhat you want is raw info from the demographic of people you're hoping to reach (not your own youth group kids). Try bus stops, skateparks, and malls. Trade them a can of soda for a completed survey.
Research the community stats and historySpend time researching the community. You may be pretty familiar with the demographics of your community. But, consider filling in any gaps in your knowledge. Check out census statistics, political structures, economic status, social-cultural background, and any stats on the religious climate.
Prepare a Community and Gap analysisIt seems that many youth workers are not usually administratively minded. It's OK. But what you need to do after collecting all this data is to sit down and compile all the research you have accumulated into one document. This way, you have a way to filter your ideas, and to present your research to others.
Collect and print your findingsOnce you have a collection of your thoughts and research, take time to revisit the people you met with before and show them the information you have collected about the community. In doing this you will demonstrate that you are interested in being a youth culture expert in their community. Doing so expands the possibilities of getting buy-in from those in the community. They also may be able to point out errors in your findings.
Pray over the felt and perceived needsBy the end of this process you will have a good idea of what is happening in your community and what is probably missing, as well. Where is the right place for you to devote your time and resources? Where is God directing you?
Plan on what your involvement will look like.Only now is it time to begin planning on how exactly you are going to address the specific needs you now know exist in your community. Look for obstacles, budget concerns, and timetables. Have several plans.
Put your plan to actionYou can't plan forever. Get out there and make it happen.
Sound complicated? It's not easy, that's for sure. But if you are truly seeking to effectively meet the needs of the teenagers in your community, you owe it to them (and to yourself) to be armed with the right information. Wasting your time and energy meeting a need that may not even really exist is the last thing anyone wants. By approaching the needs of the teenagers in your community using these 10 steps, you will be in an excellent position to mobilize resources to meet the needs of those teenagers outside of the influence of the church.
- How does your youth ministry reach the unchurched youth in your community?