Involving Students in the Advent Experience
Original photo by Mario Sormann.
One thing that’s awesome about being in a small church setting is that there are often a lot of opportunities to get your students involved with the broader ministry of the church. Because many small churches lack in manpower, there are holes to fill, and many small churches are more than willing to utilize the youth group.
Now, when I first started out in youth ministry, I saw this as a bit of a curse. But, as I’ve matured, I’ve come to recognize what a great opportunity this really presents. This is because, while youth group is awesome, students NEED opportunities to interact with and contribute to, the broader Body of Christ. It’s healthy, and its vital if you want to see your students grow into mature adult followers of Jesus.
The Opportunity of the Advent Season
The Advent season can sometimes be one of the best opportunities to engage your students, because churches are often looking for special ways to celebrate and observe this amazing event in human history.
Granted, many of the activities that churches have going on can be overwhelming and can make you and your students far too busy. But, if handled properly, the opportunity to participate in and contribute to the church’s Advent activities can be a great experience for your students. Here are a few ideas that may help you get the ball rolling as you work through these next few weeks.
Many churches do Advent readings. We’ve all seen it. Someone from the congregation will get up and recite a Scripture passage or specially prepared reading, and will then light a candle in the Advent wreath. This could be a great opportunity for your students to participate in your church’s Advent experience. Very often, especially in small churches, it is impossible to find people to do the readings, and individuals are often picked (almost) on the spot.
If you’d like to take this one up a notch, you may even consider asking for the opportunity for each student who participates to share (if they are willing) a bit on what the week’s theme means to them. This will not only give your students a great opportunity to participate, but will also give some of the adults in your church the opportunity to see the hearts of your students on display. That can be a good thing.
Additionally, many churches look for different ways to serve the community around them in special ways during the Christmas season. This can be anything from delivering fruit baskets to the elderly, to serving at a homeless shelter. This type of service offers a great reminder of exactly why Jesus came in the first place, to serve us. He is after all, the one who “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:7)
Getting your students involved will provide a great teaching opportunity for you as a youth worker, and will allow your students to see some older Christians in action, following the example of Jesus, as they serve alongside them. If your church doesn’t do something like this, perhaps you can help get it started.
Instead of doing a bunch of your own stuff, join your church in their stuff!
When you’re a one-man army, it can be hard not to get overwhelmed during the holiday season. So, rather than kill yourself planning a bunch of big stuff for your students that they may not have time to participate in anyway, why not use it as an opportunity to encourage your students to join the rest of your church in what they’re doing to observe this Advent season? Not only will it save you time you may not have, but it may also give your students an opportunity to contribute to the broader body of Christ. And, if you’re intentional about how you handle it, these opportunities may deepen your church’s Advent experience, as they have the opportunity to see the hearts of your students on display. Now really… how great would that be?
Matt Larkin serves as the Coordinator of Student & Kids’ Ministries for the Advent Christian General Conference (www.acgc.us). In that role, he serves as a resource and consultant to youth workers and college students all around the United States and globally. You can connect with Matt on Twitter via @MattWLarkin.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.