What do Kids Want from a Youth Group?
Children and teens can be very hard to cater for. Treat them too well, and they end up spoilt, needy or weak; treat them too coldly and they end up hurt and isolated - and possibly aggressive or difficult. Youth groups can be an excellent way of redressing the balance in either case, toughening up those who have been cosseted, and giving the other little terrors a chance to be accepted. But what do kids actually want from a youth group? This article will attempt to answer that question in two differing ways.
Safety and SecurityChildren and teens arguably want these things above all others, even though if you asked them they would probably laugh the idea off. The fact is, though, that many of these kids will be struggling to fit in, whether at school or in the home. They will probably feel misunderstood, unsure of themselves, and uncertain as to where their future lies. A youth group can be a real benefit in these situations, offering a low-key, no-pressure environment where kids have the chance to be themselves around peers without having to prove themselves constantly. Most of all, they can learn to be part of a group, and get used to the different types of communication required when there are peers and leaders in the same place. In other words, they will learn to respect their elders, and empathise with those who are on their level.
FunIf you asked a group of children or teens what they wanted from life in general, they would probably reply that they wanted to have fun. A youth group should therefore be no exception. The activities of a youth group should be a healthy mixture of active games, more intellectually stimulating events such as quizzes and discussions, and practical arts and crafts which help to build teamwork and problem-solving skills.
Kids love challenges, as well as the opportunity to make a mess, so you should make sure you know what you’re getting yourself (and the venue) into! You’ll also need to make sure that things don’t get out of hand in the heat of competition. It’s important for a youth group to have a good balance between competitive games and games where ‘everyone’s a winner’ – that way no one child will begin to dominate the prizes or the praise, but they will still have opportunities to show their skills in specific ways.
In conclusion, maybe the things children and teens want from youth groups are not that difficult to provide. They want an atmosphere of security and safety, with clearly defined boundaries and strong role models. It’s up to you, and your fellow leaders, to provide that environment. Likewise, they want fun activities that range from the competitive to the cooperative and from the individual to the corporate. This will give them the best mix of opportunities to learn from their peers, and to establish themselves as individuals. Of course, it will take time for youth groups to find the best balance between all these desires, but the knowledge of what the children want should be a great help towards achieving that goal.