When organising a programme it is easy to become so task oriented that we lose sight of the personal needs of those who attend. Some of these needs are: the need to feel safe, the need to belong, and the need to feel valued. Attending to these needs can, for some, be the difference between a successful programme or a disappointing one.
My first youth group “social night” as a teenager was a combined church progressive dinner in which we drove from church to church to enjoy different courses of a meal. On arrival I discovered that none of my friends had come. Awkwardly I stood alone during the first course, pretending that I was OK. As people began filing out the door to get into cars to go to the second course one of the older boys in my youth group noticed me and stopped. He asked me to join him and his friends in his car and kept a look out for me right through the evening. His personal interest in me impacted my approach to youth ministry and how greatly I valued the individual.
Making sure young people feel welcome is important. Greet them by name and be on the lookout for new people – it’s more intimidating than you realise to walk into your youth room for the first time not knowing many people. Watch out too for people who don’t have close friends there. They will often stand round looking uncomfortable so don’t have a long period of free time before a programme gets underway or they will be left feeling awkward.
This personal approach also means that when running camps we ensure that young people are assigned rooms with their friends, while new or fringe people are put with those whom you think they might best get along with.