5 Rules for Doing Life With Youth

Several youth ministries incorporate a personal rule of life into the discipleship of teens. Youth workers who do this recognize the value a personal rule of life has for teens who are attempting to answer life questions of identity, purpose and belonging in a constantly shifting culture that offers them a new answer every day. The rule of life offers teens a guide to navigate the continual changes they will experience not only as an adolescent but also as an adult.

Five Rules for a Personal Rule of Life With Youth

1. Honesty is more important than orthodoxy. You are attempting to get students to express their convictions and beliefs, not the church’s. So if you are going to develop a personal rule of life with youth then you need to shoot for honesty rather than orthodoxy in their statements on their belief about God, humanity and the future.

2. Longevity is a necessity. Your goal for using a personal rule of life with youth should include equipping them for life and faith beyond adolescence. This necessitates that the rule of life is a part of years of conversations with youth. Only with longevity in mind from the start will you be able to see how a personal rule of life will assist them in spiritual growth.

3. Rewrites are important. If honesty and longevity are embraced then rewrites are important. You will need to revisit a personal rule of life with youth at least once a year, prompting them to make revisions. This allows them to reflect on how God has changed not only their beliefs but also the specific practices, and hopefully they will see how they are becoming more like Christ.

4. Personal evaluations for personal transformation. Beyond revisiting for a rewrite, there needs to be regular times for youth to do personal evaluations or examinations in the context of the youth group. These times of soul searching will give teens the opportunity to confess how they are not living up to their beliefs or to celebrate how they are embracing who God has created them to be. Either way, confession or celebration, the goal of personal transformation will be close because the rule of life will be seen as a true guide for their life.

5. No Christianese, phraseology, generalizing or vagueness allowed. When crafting and rewriting the rule of life, don’t allow teens to use evasive language. Insist that the rule of life be written in their own words, describe their view of God, life and the future, and detail specific practices. For example, if they write “God loves me,” push back with, “OK. So why is that meaningful to you?” An example of answering that question might be, “God loves me, so I will learn to love myself by praying with God every morning, not making fun of myself with friends, and beginning to exercise two times a week.”

Do you use a personal rule of life with youth? What rules would you add to the list?  

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Paul Sheneman
Paul Sheneman is an author, speaker and youth pastor. He serves with the Macedonia Methodist Church in Ohio. He drinks way too much coffee for his own good. His main interest is exploring Christian formation. You can follow most of his ramblings on his blog at www.discipleshipremix.com or on Twitter @PaulSheneman.

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