Bring the Village Together
It takes a village to raise a child! This often-used African proverb has been heard a lot in the last several years. Before you throw a political stone at this phrase, be careful! The meaning of this proverb is rather similar to that found in Deuteronomy 6:1-9. So um it does take a village. A very simple step towards intergenerational programming in youth ministry, then, is to bring the village together.
The adult base of our youth ministry is outstanding. We have always (no kidding) and continue to have a number of adults who volunteer in youth ministry (I will brag all day about them). Even so, the majority of our volunteer base comes from the parents of teenagers. A move towards intergenerational practice has involved an intentional effort to widen our volunteer base with both younger and more senior adult believers. Here are some of the practical moves we are making to widen our volunteer pool:
- We have changed our vocabulary as a staff. We no longer solely target parents of teenagers for service in youth ministry. As a staff we are making appeals for workers across generational lines.
- We invite the entire church body. In other words, we are going to more than just the Parents of Teenagers class to ask for volunteers. We may not get too many new workers through the mass appeal, but this encouragement highlights our desire that the entire adult community play a role in the spiritual formation of teenagers.
- We are encouraging our current adult leaders, especially those who are not parents of a teenager, to get additional workers from a wider range of adults (e.g. young professionals, parents of small children, parents of grown children, singles and senior adults).
- We are partnering with our senior adult workers in providing opportunities for senior saints to participate in youth ministry in some way.
- With the wider range of adult volunteers, we have simplified our volunteer processing (e.g. background checks and volunteer opportunities forms, etc.) and provided more volunteer training opportunities. This takes the fear and uncertainty out of working with teenagers that a lot of potential volunteers often feel.
The word to keep in mind is intentional! It can be difficult to gather the entire village together for youth ministry service, but it is possible. I have found that there are a number of people waiting and wanting to be involved in the lives of teenagers. It is our job to be intentional in how we target diverse generations of volunteers and give them the skills needed to succeed.