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How to make spiritual practices connect to youth- By Gabe Dodd

It is no secret that spiritual practices help people connect to God.  It is also not a secret that young people crave spirituality.  Just take a look at the Netflix new hit show, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.  In the show, Marie, a non-anxious presence enters cluttered American homes and brings a calming spirit to help them experience, “joy” by helping them simplify.  Melinneals and Generation X are drawn to stillness and connection because it is a break from the constant bombarding marketing strategies and busy schedules that the world imposes.  In the book, The Spiritual Child,  Miller incorporates clinical experience with research to show how healthy spirituality is a core component of sound mental health and human flourishing.  She says that a spiritual yearning is a natural instinct, and the earlier they learn spiritual practices, the more likely they are to “practice spirituality” as an adult.  So the question for churches must be to connect our young people to God in avenues that work for them.
There are many spiritual practices in our church, but how do we connect them with our young people?  My suggestion for our church is to be creative and flexible.

Be Creative
The internet can be our best friend.  There are so many ways to connect our young people to God.  You don’t need to reinvent the wheel.  Consider the hard work that others are already doing!

  • Bible Study can lead to some powerful outcomes, but it can also, seem intimidating for some of our youth.  Think of ways to introduce the Bible to our youth in ways that speak to them.  Consider the Life Book (distributed by the Gideons), for middle schoolers or less literate High Schoolers. Consider, the Action Bible, for young visual learners.  There are many ways to help young people become familiar with the Bible stories, in hopes that they will pick up the good news more frequently.
  • Journaling -  Perhaps young people like to write.  Encourage them to record feelings, thoughts, and reflections.  There are many ways to journal alongside bible reading or to illustrate your response to bible reading.  Ignatius prayers are helpful to find God throughout the moments of our days.  Young people can be invited to write to illustrate where they have seen God throughout their day, and times when they ‘lost’ God throughout the day.
  • Interactive Worship - Youth have plenty of opportunities to worship in the adult realm.  How about adults experience interactive youth worship?  People learn differently, so it is important to offer opportunities for everyone by switching up we invite them to experience God.  What senses are you igniting?  For example, here is an intergenerational Taize service, and here is a resource with many prayer stations.
  • Rituals - Rituals usually mark important times in our lives when we bring notice to God’s presence with us.  The Church of the Brethren has rituals around baby dedications, baptisms, anointing, death, and sickness.  Consider milestones in the lives of our young people to practice rituals publicly.  These can be powerful opportunities to help our young people pay attention to God’s presence more frequently.  Our church started an annual blessing of backpacks/teachers/students at the beginning of the school year.  We also decided to bless new drivers with a prayer and keychain gift.  Rituals are very important to our youth!
  • The list is endless!

Be Flexible
God is present in all things.  How I long to know that and trust that for myself.  What I have learned, is that young people need to connect to God in their world, not my world.  If youth are interested in sports (I am not), I need to help them see God in that context.  I grew up loving comic books.  The first “theological” book I read was about biblical themes in superheroes.  It eventually led me on a path to seminary and has made me a spiritual person.  I am not suggesting that God has changed.  I am suggesting that God is alive in us, and with us.  God is alive to and with our young families and our teenagers.  Let us find ways we can learn to see God in our world.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash


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