How to make their ideas yours
A few weeks ago, I wrote about how to brainstorm with teens. People hesitant about utilizing teens in this process often ask some variation of this question:
What if the things teens WANT to talk about aren't what they need to talk about in order to grow in their faith? What do you do then?
That's a fair question but not a good reason to exclude teens from brainstorming teaching ideas.
Utilizing teens' ideas when you teach gives them ownership of your youth ministry. It also ensures you're addressing things they actually care about. That, in turn, makes getting teens to attend your events less of a battle. It also means you're addressing real needs. (You'll often notice that teens' ideas reflect things that are going on in their schools that you may not otherwise know about.) For that reason, using teaching topics from teens helps them connect their faith to their everyday lives.
Despite the fact that these are all good reasons for including teens in brainstorming, the truth is there will likely be a tension between what teens WANT to talk about and what you think they ought to talk about in order to grow in their faith. In fact, you might even get frustrated the first few times you utilize this process and see that every post-it has something to do with sex or world religions – two things teens ALWAYS want to talk about.
But even if that's ALL teens initially want to talk about, as their youth pastor, you can still frame those issues in a way that will enable them to deepen their faith.
You see, your job in this process is to connect what teens want to talk about with Jesus and Scripture – something that's entirely possible if all truth is God's truth and if we believe that faith actually has something to say about our everyday, ordinary lives.