How to Reduce Discrimination of Young People in our Churches
The title sounds slightly jarring but it can be true that we unconsciously discriminate against our children and young people. We sometimes see them as less part of the body of Christ in its local church than say the 35-year-old and his wife or the 70+ year old who has been at your church since she was 8. This is expressed in the finances of our churches, the facilities, the worship space environment, the time engagement and the representation (or lack thereof) of young people on worship bands, in choirs, in the pulpit and as sides people.
Here are some ways we can challenge this subconscious discrimination and welcome them into our church family as full, valid members:
- Don’t be scared. Young people are like everyone else and love a chat.
- Young people, like all people, want to belong. They are looking for authentic relationship and community that is more than just a common interest.
- Be yourself. They value realness and truthfulness.
- They want someone to walk with them on their journey of life and of faith.
- Don’t shy away from telling them about your faith and give examples. Being personal and sharing your journey with them shows them they are loved and valued.
- Give them opportunities and roles but don’t be angry or disappointed if they fail. You did not start out as an expert in anything yourself.
- Don’t underestimate them; make it a habit to think highly of them; envision them as leaders and VIPs.
- Church for them does not only need to be in your church building. Meet them where they are at.
- As part of that, enjoy and use their modes of communication and keep asking them what they use as it changes quickly. (obviously in line with safeguarding policy and practice; please be aware of this and talk it through with your team)
- Don’t speak ‘Churchese/Christianese’. Most of them don’t use or know ‘church-language’; explain and speak in normal everyday language, even in church contexts. (examples: blood of the lamb, lion of Judah, holy, righteous, loving father, under his wings, his grace, God’s kingdom, the evil one…)