I truly believe the local church is the hope of the world. And outreach to your local city or community is a key factor to reaching your city for Jesus. But getting students to see the why and the value of outreach can be a challenge. How do we instill this in teenagers and help them to see the value and catch the heart for outreach? Here are few ideas around how to start a culture of outreach in your own youth group.
1) Identify the current heartbeat of outreach in your church.
What is your church currently doing to reach out to your city or community? How can students be a part of this? The easiest way to start a culture of outreach in your youth group is to partner with outreach already happening within your church. Are you part of small church that isn’t doing a lot? Partner with other nonprofits in your community. Soup kitchens, house building projects through organizations like Habitat for Humanity and seasonal projects like Operation Christmas Child can be a great place to start. This will also spark ideas as your group jumps in and starts to serve.
2) Encourage students to put the phone down and do something.
It can be so easy to look at the world and criticize it rather than getting in the game. Typing out my frustrations on a facebook post is so much easier than actually getting off the couch and being a part of the solution. We can encourage students to be the hands and feet of Jesus to a world that is hurting and desperately in need of hope. Teaching a series on outreach and a heart for the city can springboard your group to ask “what can we do” or “how can I help”. Encourage students to stay curious as they go to school, work and the local pizza place. What needs do you see as you look around? How could our group address those needs today? You’d be surprised what ideas the Spirit will stir as your group stays open and curious to the leading of God’s voice.
3) Give students a compelling “why.”
I can’t tell you how many times I don’t do something because the “why” is just not that compelling. Outreach is no different. We cannot simply expect our students to understand why outreach is important. We have to draw them into the adventure of serving God through loving people. We need to help them think about how compelling authentic love truly is. Encourage your students to dream about what one simple act, accomplished in love, can spark; how someone in a really dark place could hold on for one more day; how this could be the sign someone is waiting for to know God is real and for them. Part of our job is to encourage students to see the world from an eternal perspective.
Outreach is just another opportunity to encourage teens that what they do today matters for tomorrow and that one simple act of kindness and love could mean forever with God for that person we are serving.