Youth Ministry as Homecoming
It happened again. A kid showed up at my door. He was looking for my son (who is his age) but came in anyway when he discovered that my son was not home. He spent some time chatting with my wife and then accompanied me as I picked up my son from a sleepover. On the way home, we stopped for lunch at McDonalds (I paid) and then with his mother’s permission he spent the rest of the day with us. During the course of his visit, he related that he had made his parents upset earlier that day. It was not a big deal but was just enough family drama to make him want to take a walk. On his walk, he ended up at my house. Though for him it might have been just a spur of the moment idea, I knew it to be much more than that.
Even though they may not be aware of it, it communicates something when a kid shows up at your door (or finds their way into your life).
The unspoken understandings-
I trust them.
I have observed in my years of ministry that kids are drawn to the oldest person in the room who will take them seriously. Being taken seriously looks a lot like a person who asks questions about a young person’s life and listens for a response. Really listens. This can be difficult for a parent. Parents come with parenting agendas. That is how it is to be a parent and there is nothing wrong with that. But, it takes a special kind of adult to sit with a kid and converse and listen. It also takes time. Do you have that kind of time?
I am comfortable here.
This young man was comfortable with us because we had become a safe place for him over the course of a few years. He accompanied us in carpools to school, soccer practices, and youth group. He was one of ours. He knew he was welcome because he always had been. He knew our home and even our refrigerator was his and he visited them often! The investment of time, resources and attention to this young man had made him comfortable around us.
When I don’t know where to go, I go there.
Question: When you are upset with your family, where do you go? Answer: To the people who are most like family. This young man will always be one of our “kids.” We love him and are committed friends to his family. We watch him and pray for him and cheer for him. We live with the interlaced chords of covenant among our families. They bind us together and make us aware of one another on a deep level. We are brothers and sisters in Christ and we are family.
As I crawled into bed that night and lay in the quiet I thought about the young man’s visit. The questions I pondered were, “Where would my children go if they needed to take a walk?” “What safe place and safe family could they visit in a time of need?” I am thankful for the places I could number but honestly, I wish I could have come up with more.
The longer I am in ministry the more I believe that youth ministry is especially about homecoming. Home is where we can be who God made us to be. Home is where we can play and laugh and grieve and share life. Home is where we are truly ourselves. God invites us to be at home in Him. In our Christian communities, we can become the places that kids show up and aren’t even sure why.
Each knock might be an invitation to enter into God’s work of drawing a young person closer to his heart.
Open the door and welcome them home.
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TONY AKERS has been in ministry to youth and families in large and small churches for 25 years. He is a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary and just entered his 12th year serving as the Minister to Youth and Families at Trinity United Methodist Church in Huntsville, Alabama. Tony also serves as a youth ministry coach and writes fairly frequently at WWW.STUDENTMINISTRYSOLUTIONS.COM
This post was previously published by STUDENTMINISTRYSOLUTIONS.COM.
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.