3. Share the Gospel with youth.
We want to help our youth know how to build a friendship with God. But that relationship works differently for every teen. Our youth are on different stages of their faith journey, but they all want to connect. Some teens are more oriented to outreach and service. Others crave an authentic way to live out their faith day to day.
The process of helping teens find Jesus is ongoing. No teen is the same. The key is investing in them relationally, as individuals. Don’t assume they believe or don’t believe. Don’t assume or judge. Look for opportunities to share Christ. Ask questions. Listen actively.
4. Invest in teenagers’ lives.
Take an interest in their passions. Ask them about the sports they play, the movies they watch, the music they like, and the books they read. Find out where they hang out. Go to their games, concerts, and plays. Invite them for a chat over coffee or to get together for a burger and milkshake. When you spend time with teens, they see that you care. They begin to see you as part of their lives. Pray for the youth! Let them know you pray for them. Ask them how you can pray for them.
5. Include other adults.
Yes, build relationships with the youth but also with parents, with adult leaders, and among adult leaders and youth. Extend your ministry to include families. Equip the adult leaders to love teens and to connect with them. This is scary for many adult leaders, but once they try it, they love it.
Teens appreciate having a community that welcomes, loves, and accepts them for who they are. Connect the youth with caring adult mentors in your community. If we aren’t connecting our teens with adult mentors, we’re making a huge mistake.
6. Be yourself but have a plan.
You don’t need a complicated plan to connect with youth, but it helps to be prepared for expected or unexpected encounters. Create opportunities to connect one on one. Look for common ground in conversation. Tell kids how God is working in your life.
Be ready for their attempts to shock you. Have a few questions ready to help you break the ice, if necessary. I like to ask, ”What do you like to do when you aren’t in school?” Ask well-placed questions and listen carefully.
Remember: God Is With You!
Relationships are the source of all ministry. Knowing how to build a friendship in youth ministry (and elsewhere) is less about what brings us together and more about what connect us. These connections take time and intentionality. There’s no simple solution and no one recipe for success.
Ask God for opportunities to connect with youth, parents, and adult leaders. And prepare to be amused. God may answer your prayers in unexpected ways! These encounters will enrich your life, your ministry, and the lives of teens.
Personal relationships can be transformative. God uses them to shape lives. The entire Bible is about relationships. So use those stories as inspiration and motivation. Have fun with what brings you together, and celebrate the moments that help you connect.