How Congregations Can Better Serve Their Youth

By Bart Frost

Leads for Keeping Youth in Your Congregation

We started asking "How could your church better serve you?" after noting the responses to the magic-wand question were highly aspirational. Because they are qualitative instead of quantitative, measuring these two questions is more difficult than evaluating youth's favorite part of church. The two most prominent responses were food-based and some form of "[My congregation] can't because they already serve me well." Other responses included promoting youth leadership: "It could send a youth leadership newsletter for opportunities such as those mentioned in the meeting at the UUA."

"More opportunity for youth leadership."

"Get the kids more involved in everything and tell us all about what's going on in the general congregation."

A desire for their congregation to support their spiritual needs: "I wish my church helped me stay connected even when I couldn't attend worship."

"My church could better serve me by providing more youth oriented services to engage me better. I enjoyed the Neighboring Faiths unit and would like another RE course like that because it helped me learn what I believe but since it was a while ago, I do not remember a lot of what I learned. It would be helpful to have that knowledge for COA [Coming of Age]."

"The services aren't really interesting for young kids (I'm saying this from experience)."

"Support me in my journey with faith."

"It would be better to have youth be able to go to the Sunday service and youth group."

And desires for their congregation to be more active in their communities and more welcoming: "We could talk more about LGBT issues."

"More service oriented activities, especially for youth."

"Help me become a better person in the real world."

"I like what the church does so far, but it would be cool to travel to historic places like this and meet other UUs from other churches and hear them talk about how they worship and what they believe."

"I honestly love belonging to this church, but when I first started there I didn't feel welcomed. I think having more of a welcoming committee it would be better."

Lastly, some youth expressed deep love for their congregations: "My church has already done so much, and helped me discover what it means to have faith."

"Ask not what your church can do for you, but what you can do for your church ;)"

My biggest takeaway from this is that listening to stakeholders is a vital part of our ministry and sometimes it takes more than just a single question. More than 70 respondents said, "It serves me fine," or, "I don't know," but the majority of those respondents would change something about their congregation if they had a magic wand. Are they jaded about their ability to change their church to serve their needs? Can they not picture their congregation serving them in another way? Are they truly happy with their congregation? I think the answer is a little bit of all of the above.

Have you asked the youth in your congregation how you can serve them better? Tell us what they said!

Up Next: 5 Ways You Can Support Youth In Your Congregation