Forming Students in an Evanescent World– Part 2

It took me a while in my ministry life to realize how important Christian adults are in student formation. I had a cognative knowledge of the importance of an “in-the-know” adult mentor; however, it has been over the past two years that I have watched the remarkable effects of such an approach. During this time, we have made slow changes to orient our entire youth ministry to have an intergenerational involvement focus– having our students share stories with the oldest people of the congregation; having our students work together with our children in VBS, wrapping Christmas gifts, etc.; having our students interact with many volunteers, mentors, and small group leaders; involving our students in significant conversations with our governing elders; having our students paired with an adult in the church who is their prayer partner; having our students participating and partnering in the leading of all-church activities in ways that do not exploit and market them; and finally having our students participate in BBQs, service projects, etc. with their families. I have watched as these experiences have signficantly shaped our students, our families, and our congregation. Our congregation also has developed a very healthy view of our students and our ministry because of their interaction with our students. My church is the only one in our area that had an increase in the number of students that were going to summer camp– one of the reasons I think this has happened is because of the volunteer leaders that counsel our students at camp. We send volunteers who love being around teenagers, who know the right balance of freedom and boundaries, who know how to listen and get kids to open up, who know how to encourage and exhort kids rather than be hard on them. Intergenerational involvement is key to youth formation both corporately and individually. The thesis of Chap Clark’s book Hurt is that this generation is an abandoned generation. Erik Erikson’s classic work on adolescent identity makes the case that teen identity formation rests on a good undergirding of adult involvement in students’ lives. Christian Smith’s now very famous study sounds the alarm very clearly– in order to form teenage faith identity both now and for the future, intergenerational involvement is the key.

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