How to build community among teenagers

What is Community?

Often it is easier to define what something is by considering what it isn’t. So community in your youth group would not include:

  • Cliques and small ‘in-groups’.
  • Teasing others because they are different.
  • Kids that won’t sit with other kids that go to a different high school
  • Rumours
  • Lack of honesty and willingness to own up when something has happened but instead there is a blame culture.
  • A closed sense to the group that makes it difficult for anyone new to break in.

youth groupBut rather there is a sense of openness, willingness to accept others, honesty in dealings and communication, no sense that they need to conform.

Why bother building community?

Common Unity is a Biblical concept – Psalm 133:1 says ‘it is good and pleasant when we are living in unity’; John 17:21,23 Jesus prays that we ‘may all be one’, 1 Cor 1:10 ‘no divisions among us’ – and there are more.

Starting thoughts:

There are a few things to think through before we can look at specific things to do, activities to involve the group in and outcomes that we are looking for.

Building Community must be intentional

If you have been in youth ministry a while or even observed it for a short period of time you will know that community doesn’t happen naturally. It’s a little bit like gardening – if you don’t intentionally go and plant, weed, water and cultivate you won’t naturally get a garden that is pleasant to look at, full of colour, weed free and prize winning. I understand that God is fully able to do it by His Spirit just like He is able to grow a garden on His own!

Building Community takes time and commitment

Again a little like the garden example – if you expect instant results then you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Youth work is often scattered with disappointment and in the case of building community you will need leaders who are committed and willing to stay the course. When things start to happen you will then need to hang in there as the young people themselves start to see and feel the benefits and then you will need to encourage them to hang in there too. I know, it could (and probably will) takes years.

Building Community must respect the individual

Of course community building is a group activity and purpose but if it overrides the feelings of the individual then there is something wrong. Groups are made up of individuals with their own ways of relating to others, communicating in their own styles – some shy, some out spoken. A good starting point is to talk to individuals in the group and ask them what they enjoy, what they would like to see different, how the group could be made more inviting to new people etc. The art is hearing everyone’s perspective and then forming a plan to include everyone.

Building Community is a community task

Leadership will be a vital commodity in building community – it won’t happen without you taking the idea seriously and making it happen – but, by definition, you can’t do it without the group. You will need to identify key youth that are either naturally community builders or natural community breakers. Involving them, shaping them, encouraging them to take the idea seriously will greatly speed up the process and ultimately make it happen.

Building Community is Christ centred

The earlier scripture verses indicate that in building community we are following Christ’s example and that is itself a compelling reason to do so.

Taken from Youth Worker Coach

About the author

Trent serves as an Associate Pastor at Vision Baptist Church in Alpharetta, GA. He writes, speaks, and helps lead events that encourage people to "pioneer" in the work of sending.

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