Relationships are crucial to our faith development. It isn’t a private thing, it grows, is challenged and nurtured by being with other people. I just completed an MA in childhood and youth studies and was privileged to do a little bit of research as part of that with young people in a Church of Scotland congregation. These young people spoke of the relationships with older people in their congregation which were life giving, however they also craved community with peers who were Christians. How we relate with young people and the communities we build with them matter. If it takes a village to raise a child it also takes a whole church to nurture young people in the faith.

The Bible is full of beautiful stories of the richness and significance of community, from the sharing of stories in our daily lives in Deuteronomy, the building of a water side cairn in Joshua, to the sharing and worshipping communities of the early church in Acts.

Biblical communities seem to reflect 8 key characteristics:

  • sharing/helping
  • questioning
  • eating
  • praying
  • ritual
  • worshipping/learning
  • storytelling
  • remembering

A few weeks ago I had a chance to chat to some children’s and youth leaders from Lanarkshire and here are the practical ideas of how we can build Christian community with young people using these characteristics… 

Sharing/Helping

  • praying for each other
  • gardening for old people
  • Caritas award
  • sharing meals and our homes
  • supporting during transitions

Questioning

  • safe environment
  • Can I ask that?
  • don’t pretend to have all the answers find them if you can
  • don’t be scared of questions
  • involve others in helping explore the questions
  • find out why some questions are being asked

Eating

  • Jesus did it all the time
  • meals out
  • communion
  • start Sunday morning with breakfast

Praying

  • creative ideas
  • prayer spaces
  • finding ways to enjoy prayer
  • prayer buddies for exams
  • prayer box

Ritual

  • create traditions
  • baptism
  • enabling young people to be part of rituals and creating new ones
  • routines limit anxieties
  • finish or start session in the same way e.g. discussing how the week was or with a prayer

Worshipping/learning

Storytelling

  • do it!
  • photos
  • films
  • Easter trail around the town telling different parts of holy week story at different locations e.g. Jesus trial in Tesco car park, gethsemane in the park etc
  • going deeper with Bible stories they may have heard all their lives

Remembering

  • create memories constantly
  • weekends away
  • show and save photos of events
  • make a fool of yourself and join in
  • mark achievements
  • note rites of passage

We crave community - the centrality of social media in our society reveals that craving. Let’s spend our days building real tangible communities where young people will find spiritual home in our congregations.