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Youth Group in a Busy World

Posted by Carey McDonald // November 20th 2012 // Guides and Tools, Stories and Voices, youth // 5 comments

-A dispatch from 21st Century Faith Formation Training

I often hear from youth advisors who ask “how do I get my youth to attend youth group every week? They’re so busy with all their other extracurricular activities.” As I’m sitting here at a training on 21st Century Faith Formation, we’re talking about how churches are basically an “obsolete approach” to faithful community. They make sense when people live nearby the church building and the congregation maps onto an already defined and active community, like the old parish churches of New England. But we live in a world of many overlapping networks and groups, only some of which are geographically defined. Is it fair to expect they’re anything we could do to get all of our youth attending each Sunday?

So what if we took advantage of all the great new technologies at our fingertips to make youth group a blended online/in-person model? Blended classrooms are already taking off in education. What if, instead of demanding our high school students show up every week, they had a monthly meal and gathering, and the rest of the time they communicated through a Facebook group? Or a bi-monthly gathering with a Pinterest board? What if you as an advisor could spend your time forwarding fabulous articles and prayers, answering questions, talking with parents, instead of setting up a meeting? Don’t we think we can trust them to stay connected if we make it easy and interesting? They might even become more connected. Here’s one example, imagine the possibilities.

A blended youth ministry would make it easier to participate, and allow your youth to engage with Unitarian Universalism through the social media that they’re already using. And here’s the added bonus: it might make the time we have together a little more special. You see this phenomenon at play with youth conferences: our youth only get to see one another from around the district every few months, so they’re totally present and engaged. It would help us to shift away from taking for granted our rare and precious presence with one another towards a culture of gratitude and joy.

I’m sure there are groups already working on this- who are they? How can we hear their stories and the wisdom they’re gaining? Share your thoughts below!

About the Author

Carey is the Chief Operating Officer for the UUA.
5 Responses to “Youth Group in a Busy World”
  1. John Fahey says:

    Religious community is about connecting in a very powerful, spiritual, human connection. Somehow the world of facebook and on line diminishes that human connection. Our youth WANT to come to their youth group for that powerful, meaningful, spiritual human connection. And communicate during the week with Facebook

  2. Roger says:

    I don’t think Carey is suggesting that online interactions replace face-to-face ones.
    But that online social networks could be used to enhance how youth ministries divulge important
    Information and other powerful liturgical tools. It’s all about blending both while not allowing the online portion to replace the conventional.

    • Carey McDonald says:


      Yes, I think you hit the nail on the head. I totally agree with John about the importance of human connection. There are so many possibilities and permutations for how that could work for any given set of high school students given the possibilities of using social media, in person gathering, and other communication tools.

      Lots of youth groups I know have Facebook groups or pages, which is a great first step. If anyone has experience trying to take the online/in-person integration and enhancement to the next level for youth groups, I’d love to hear about it!


      • benette sherman says:

        I’m glad you may be gaining some insights with the Faith Formation 2020 or 21st Century, etc workshop. It is quite an enlightening workshop and helpful. I think it would be foolish of us who work with youth (or congregations in general) to dismiss the connected-online culture we live in, but I also agree that face to face connections are also necessary. We can manage to do both with integrity. Teens are no more busy than 20 years ago nor are adults, but we’ve created the mind set that we are always busy—that’s one of the down sides of social media and electronic connections–we have succumbed to the tyranny of ‘doing’. Youth groups and a religious community can help reclaim quiet, listening, reflecting, being.

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