One of the hardest questions parents have to face about church is, “How do I make my child feel welcome?” And the question is real. The tween and teen years are some of the hardest times in a student’s life socially as they experience a whirlwind of change in and around them. New faces, places, and expectations replace the concrete world they once knew, leaving them with more questions than answers. This time of transition in their lives forces them to discern who they are, what is their faith, and who are the people I am close to that love me.
It is no doubt that a close-knit group of friends makes this process easier, but if you have ever been through middle school or high school, you know that – that is easier said than done. Church is no exception, new faces and places replace the once familiar home of children’s ministry and at first glance, it can seem like everyone is the “in-crowd” except you. In a perfect world free of traffic, homework, scheduling conflicts, and overbooked extracurricular activities, students could spend five or less hours a week at church. But because life does not happen in a vacuum and our world has a thousand things screaming for our attention, chances are students are only able to spend less time in church a month than a single school day.
This not only makes finding peer groups hard, but next to impossible. So the question every parent still has to ask is “How do I make my child feel welcomed?” Well, I’m so glad you asked! One of the ways we create space for students to engage, connect, and make friends in our church is through intentional time together outside of Sunday morning. In fact, we believe that this is such an important part of youth ministry that we host 10 retreats a year to provide a space for students to come and be part of our family, not to mention a whole other list of events, Bible studies, and cool things like our Night of Worship. Night of Worship is happening Thursday, March 1st at 7:00pm in our newly renovated contemporary worship venue (Now Adam owes me lunch). Because while the continuous process faith formation occurs through Sunday School, Worship, and Devotion…friend formation happens at pedicure parties, over our seventh slice of pizza, or when we tell our friends to pull our finger…no really do it.
That is why I want to tell you about our next retreat, Disciple Now, happening March 16-18. Disciple Now is a local retreat where students stay in the host homes of church members, as we meet throughout the weekend for worship, games, more junk food than mom lets them eat, and to mobilize for mission. This year Disciple Now is intentionally overlapping with our church’s Missional Saturday so that the youth can participate in our church wide mission of scattering out into the community to be the hands and feet of Christ. But behind the missions, the late night worship, the games, Mountain Dew, and all of the chaos that you could possibly imagine, Disciple Now is a weekend for our students to come connect, engage, and create relationships so that they know JCBC is a church and a family who knows them and loves them.
Johns Creek baptist Church