One of the things our family struggled with over the years was trying to keep our kids connected with other kids at church. Since we didn’t live in the community surrounding our church, our kids didn’t have the opportunity to see other kids who attended unless there was a 30 minute drive involved. We had tried churches close to home, but nothing fit for us. Hence, the drive.
What we experienced during those junior high and high school years is probably even more prevalent today. With the megachurch model more families are making a longer commute to church which can sometimes make it more difficult for kids to connect. With kids attending several schools rather than the typical one or two represented in a smaller community setting, teens tend to congregate with the kids they see more than on Sunday morning leaving many to sit back on the fringe.
If we want our kids to remain in the church through the junior high and high school years and then into college, they need to see the church as a basis for friendship and the benefit of connecting with other Christians. Modeling that for our kids means we see the importance of church friendships for ourselves as well rather than just Sunday morning acquaintances.
Shaunti Feldhahn’s research in For Parents Only confirms that our teens need to feel accepted, included, and that others want to be around them. That’s why if we connect friendship to the church we have a better chance of keeping our kids engaged for the long haul. For us as parents, it means we need to connect with other parents with kids our kids’ ages and get to know them as well. Making church activities central in planning our lives helps our teens see the relevance of church in our lives.
So what can we do to help our tweens and teens feel connected to other church kids?
- Encourage your kids to invite church kids over. Use this as opportunity to get to know the parents.
- Plan a hangout date at the pool or some other popular location with friends from church.
- Encourage your kids to text or call kids during the week.
- Be willing to drive.
- Offer up your home as a place for a youth group activity.
Another great way to get our kids connected is to send them on retreats or to youth conferences with a group from church. Not only do these conference typically speak to our kids spiritually as they see thousands of other kids in worship and praise but it allows kids to be in a different environment where deeper relationships can be cultivated. If your church doesn’t typically do this, do some research on options for conferences and consider taking a group of teens yourself with a few other parents.
One summer my high school senior had planned to go to a conference with the church youth group. The conference was held several weeks throughout the summer, but as luck would have it, the youth ministry had decided to only take the junior high kids that year. Since we knew this was the last year my son would be able to attend, my husband and I got a group of high school kids together and went down to the conference in Florida on our own. Not only did these kids get to interact with other Christian kids for a week, but we got to know the teens in our group really well. My son would say it was one of our best vacations ever! It was almost as if we created an extended family for him.
Four years out of high school those are the kids he is still connected to even though each of them has gone their separate way. Re-connection for them is like a church homecoming and the friendships quickly start up again just where they left off. When they come home during the summer sometimes they’ll grab high school kids from church just to go hang out with them. They’ve discovered the importance of peer relationships in cultivating their faith.
How well are your kids connected to their peers at church? What steps do you need to take to get your kids more engaged? I’d love to engage with you on this topic. Hope you’ll comment.
“Let go…and let God”,