The Role of Youth Group: A Guide for Mentors and Facilitators

Youth groups, or youth ministries, are age-specific religious organizations that aim to engage young people, usually aged 12 to 18, in activities based on faith and spiritual awakening. A successful youth group should be a safe and accessible place for young people to meet and socialize in an informal setting. The program should also provide opportunities to build skills and confidence. The youth group will be supported by adults, but it should be a place where young people design their own program and activities while developing a sense of community and participation.

The installation must be clean, stimulating, comfortable and easy to access. As members of their communities, young people have the same right of access to community facilities. The mentor-friend role requires a balance that must be intentionally established from day one. The first thirty days are essential to establish that you are a true follower of Jesus and that you have something to share.

Take a trip with your youth group during that first month. Travel and other shared experiences provide great opportunities to meet your students, demonstrate their authenticity, create teaching moments and generate enthusiasm for your group. Another way many youth workers increase face-to-face time with their young people is by occasionally having lunch with them in their schools. Most importantly, remember that every interaction with your youth is a gift from God, which we honor by intentionally seeking to be a mentor-friend.

As we teach, we must realize that it is impossible to teach our young people the right answer to every question or the right way to act in every situation. However, in addition to teaching our young people to memorize important truths, we can and should teach them theological and practical thinking skills. This skill set will equip them to process each situation in light of their Christian faith and navigate the world as followers of Jesus. For example, instead of starting the lesson by saying “Don't smoke marijuana”, you could lead a discussion in which you ask young people to evaluate marijuana by asking questions such as “What does the Word of God say? Is it legal? Is it beneficial?” That's just one example. The point is that we must teach what God's Word says and how it influences our decision-making when the topic is not clearly stated in Scripture.

This requires that you know the Word of God yourself, which is one of the reasons why the first role (being a follower of Jesus) is going to be the basis of your ministry. It also requires learning the art of asking open-ended questions and waiting long enough for students to process their question and respond. The first few discussions will definitely be a little shaky. You will have to teach young people to dialogue with respect. This includes teaching listening skills, staggering on tangents, dealing with the dominators of conversation as smoothly as possible, and, of course, correcting with the Word of God as needed.

Another way that young people will learn to put their faith into action is by seeing it shaped by the way you live your own faith. For example, they will be on the lookout to see if you stop to pray, if you give of yourself to serve others, or if you participate in a small group. They'll want to know how you've handled the difficult problems of faith and life. Be appropriately open about your struggles, understand how others have faced your challenges, and be courageous to share how your faith has led you to live differently. This will go a long way in establishing you as a reliable spiritual leader. Others see youth groups as having an educational or developmental purpose; they allow young people to reunite with their peers; socialize and be part of the community in which they live; they allow young people to move from adolescence to adulthood; they care about encouraging personal growth and offering activities that challenge and stimulate young people.

Youth organizations can operate in local schools, churches, neighborhoods, or recreation centers. Don't worry about how many young people or children or young adults or older adults come to church and start paying attention to people. Another way you can help your young people apply the passage to their lives is by doing some initial teaching time with the entire youth group and then dividing them into smaller volunteer-led discussion groups. The role of young people is also to practice vulnerability by sharing the disorientation that one feels when one of their parents abandons them at home. Youth workers work together with parents to establish appropriate policies regarding activities that take place off church property. Participation in a youth organization has many advantages for the young people themselves, as well as for the entire community. No one wants to be the guardian of boundaries, but it is an important part of the responsibilities of a youth worker. Also, if you're organizing a youth group for the first time, you might have some great tips on what works best for working with young people in your community.

There's no doubt that being an adult mentor or facilitator for a youth organization can be hard work, especially if it's your first time doing it. I think the fundamental thing for the role of youth leadership is to make disciples who then make disciples.