Seven Ways to Connect with Teenagers This Summer
By Jonathan McKee Posted on May 29 2012
Let’s face it, summer brings an entirely new menu of ministry venues: camps, trips, pool parties and late nights. Plenty of opportunities for ministry during these few months. Plenty of ways to connect with teenagers.
Youth ministry leaders are always looking for venues where their adult leaders can connect with young people—it’s a foundational summer priority in youth ministry. But what are some of the best arenas where teenagers actually open up and talk during the summer? And what are some tools we can give our adult leaders to seek out these times?
Here’s seven ways that we can connect with teenagers during these summer months, including a few ways that youth leaders can help make it easier for all their adult volunteers:
7. The Y-adapter: Summer is often full of trips: long bus rides to camp, long van rides to Disneyworld or a music festival. I like to give my adult leaders tools that help them initiate conversation with teenagers during these long rides. One of those tools is the Y-adapter. You know…the little iPod y-adapter that turns one headphone jack into a two headphone jack? (you can get them at any Radio Shack) It works like this. You sit next to a kid who is listening to their music, pull out your headphones and y-adapter and ask, “Can I plug in?”
The purpose of this is not to lecture kids about the LMFAO or Katy Perry songs in their playlist. This simple act of “listening in” provides a glimpse into their world. Most teenagers love music. When you enter the world of a teenager’s music, you have often found a place that’s dear to them, a place where they spend hours daily. Use these opportunities to get to know your teenagers.
But music also can bring up great conversation. If the topic of music content comes up, equip your leaders to simply ask questions:
- What was this song about?
- What does that mean?
- What do you think most teenagers hear when they listen to this song?
- How does this music influence teenagers?
Y Adapters are just a tool that helps our adult leaders initiate bus-ride conversations.
6. Sleeping Under the Stars: Backpack trips, camping trips, or just a small group of people sleeping in a wide open back yard…it doesn’t really matter as long as it’s quiet and under the stars. Schedule some times to sleep out in the open under the night sky this summer. Something about laying in a sleeping bag and looking up at God’s creation that seems to get kids thinking about life. Don’t force a prepped talk about “creation,” just be ready to listen about life.
5. Jamba Cards: I find that my adult volunteers sometimes needed a little push start to get them to initiate “one-on-ones” with teenagers. At the beginning of the summer hand each of your adult leaders a Jamba card with $25 on it. Tell them: “This is for you to take each of your small group kids out for a one-on-one. This should cover about the first three kids.”
Yes, this is a budget item. But I find that donors are pretty happy to donate $25, financing three “one-on-ones” between a teenager and a positive adult role model.
Summer I use Jamba cards—winter I use Starbucks (Or “Timmy’s” for y’all up North of the border).
4. Halo Night: If you want to be a positive influence in the life of a junior high boy, it starts with blowing away aliens on the newest X-box system. A couple adult volunteers, a few teenage boys, a cooler full of Mountain Dew and an X-box controller in each hand… what more do ya need?
Two years ago I had two guys in my junior high small group that really struggled opening up to the group. After a night of video games at my house…I couldn’t get them to shut up!
I’ve had a few parents complain about games like Halo over the years, but in all honesty, Halo is just “Space Invaders” with really good graphics! Get parent permission first, but video games can be a great tool to connect. (Just always check out a video game review page beforehand.)
3. Costco Food Court: Wanna connect with a kid over food but you don’t really have much of a budget? Try a “big-box store” like the Costco food court. Hot dog and a soda for $1.50? Sign me up!
Last week Jim Burns’ daughter Becca told my son and I, “My dad always used to ask me where I wanted to go for our Daddy/daughter dates. I always told him, ‘Target Food Court!’”
Young people really aren’t that picky. The conversation is what’s valued with these kinds of connections.
2. Exposing Yourself to Harmful UV Rays: In a world where every article in the paper is talking about how damaging the sun is, be politically incorrect this summer and expose yourself to the rays! Take a couple teenagers to the beach, the lake or a pool, slap on some sunscreen and just chill (yes, sunscreen actually works). Teenagers love chill time, and one-on-one or one-on-two time by the water can open the doors to hours of good conversation! (Best for adult males to hang with teenage guys, and adult females to hang with teenage girls in this situation. More on these kinds of boundaries in Chapter 13 of Jonathan’s book, Connect.)
1. YOU FILL IN THE BLANK… yeah… I left this blank on purpose because you all probably have the best ideas! Use the comments below to let us in on your #1 tip for connecting with young people this summer!
If you liked this article from Jonathan, you’ll love his books, Ministry By Teenagers, Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation, and his brand new 4 Session DVD curriculum coming out this May, Real Conversations: Sharing Your Faith Without Being Pushy