How to get closer to God as a teenager is a vital question for everyone working with young people. Play a game with me… Imagine you weren’t allowed to have small groups of any kind in your youth ministry. How would you build community?
We all know that creating relationship-rich spaces to grow community is important. But what if our go-to greenhouse for friendship-building wasn’t an option? What would you recommend for how to get closer to God as a teenager and as a youth group?
And before you answer “Sunday school,” let’s take that off the table, too. Seriously, how would we nurture relationships in youth ministry if we were forced to abandon our current templates?
I’m asking because every model has its nasty blind spots and hidden deficits. For example, what if your “time-tested” strategy for deepening intimacy in your marriage involved only a quick peck on the cheek, once a day? Of course, “friendly” affection is not-nothing. But you’d be missing out on a world of possibilities if you… settled.
Let’s stop settling in youth ministry. Read on for important insights about how to get closer to God as a teenager and as a youth group.
How to Get Closer to God as a Teenager: 6 Practical Steps
Most of us have a love-hate relationship with traditional models of ministry. We love their predictability, and we hate their predictability. We love their history of impact, and we hate that we’re forever-tied to that history.
As an exercise in risk and creativity, let’s make believe relationship-building can infiltrate a wider swath of our ministry. For example, check out these practical steps.
1. Box of Fun
Once a month, we celebrate birthdays by bringing teenagers up front to receive a random, quirky giveaway from a box they can’t look into. Only the leader gets to put his or her hands into the box. Teenagers must choose “right” or “left.” Then they get whatever item the leader is touching.
It could be a T-shirt, water bottle, candy, body spray, a cheap drone… or a can of dog food. You get the idea. We once warmed up a full steak dinner and had it ready to go in the box. The spontaneity and regularity of this new twist on community-building means our kids (and adult leaders!) never miss the first Wednesday of the month—our Box of Fun day.
2. Owning Our Social Media
We all know that teenagers don’t always exercise the best judgment on social media. So we’ve decided to pull a Jesus-juke and “put Judas in charge of the money.” We give a few of our kids access to our Instagram account. Then we encourage them to post content they think reflects our values as a ministry.
It’s a back-door way to help teens grow in their discernment of what’s appropriate. Meanwhile, it’s a way of transferring “ownership” of the group from the adults.
3. Community-Building Onramps
Once a month, we have a special event or surprise as a prompt for teenagers to invite their friends into our community. It might be seasonal (a Christmas Bash) or an acronym-based fun night (SPAM Nights: Some Pizza And Movie, Some Pancakes And Movie, Some Popcorn And Movie, and so on).
We plan these fun onramps at the beginning of a teaching series. They give us an easy way to invite teens into the “meat” of our ministry.