Today’s Christian teen is likely to be passionate about various social justice topics. Unfortunately, as we discussed in the last post, the tasks God wants His people to perform in ministry to others have been ignored by many Christians. When secular groups pick up these tasks, they may perform them in ways that don’t totally meet the standards set by God.
This is due largely in part to one of the reasons God wants us to serve other people. Yes, it is to meet their immediate need, but it is also to give Christians an opportunity to share their faith with others. Meeting a secular felt need while ignoring the eternal, spiritual need is solving a problem that lasts less than a nanosecond of eternity, while ignoring the issues that can make the rest of eternity literally either Heaven or Hell for someone.
Teach One Reach One wants to encourage Bible class teachers, mentors, and ministries to take up some of the secular needs below with teen and young adult Bible students, but add the spiritual dynamic that in the end is so much more important.
Some of these ideas are already being served in some areas by Christians. Learn from their experiences – no need to reinvent the wheel. In other areas, even secular non-profits have virtually ignored the problem, leaving an amazing opportunity for your Christian teens to make a huge impact on the lives of others – especially if they also teach them the Gospel message.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but gives ideas for many of the areas of interest to teens and young adults.
- Lobby lawmakers at all levels of government. Is there a law on the books that causes people to be hurt unnecessarily? Should there be a law against a practice that takes advantage of people or hurts them in some way? Teach your Bible students how to advocate effectively with lawmakers. This skill set may become extremely valuable as our government and those in many other countries move away from freedom of religion and/or approve laws that ignore God’s laws. We can’t legislate morality, but we can try to protect unborn children and improve laws impacting foster care, for example.
- Lobby policy makers. Much discussion has occurred regarding how police are interacting with others. Are there policies or training that could improve the quality of interactions? Your Bible students can do research and then lobby local police authorities to make helpful changes. There are other areas that are impacted more by the policies of a group than actual legislation. Lobbying for specific changes can make a huge difference.
- Develop alternatives for rental centers, pay day loans and other predatory practices. There are businesses, technically legal, that take advantage of people in poverty. Rental centers, where people rent needed furniture and other items they can’t afford, are a huge problem. They promise needed items for a low monthly fee going towards the purchase of the item. When you add up the final costs though, people are paying several times the retail value of the item. The APR (interest rate) to finally purchase the item runs from 43-468%. Pay day loans are a legal form of usury. Someone gets a small loan from these vendors in exchange for giving them part or all of their pay check when they receive it. The average APR (interest rate) is 398%. Car title loans are similar. If someone owns part or all of their car, they can give that ownership to the vendor in exchange for a loan. In order to keep their car, they have to pay back the loan quickly and usually with an APR of 300%. Can your Bible students find ways to help the poor pay for emergencies or purchase needed items without getting preyed upon by usury schemes?
- Become volunteer tutors and mentors. Many schools in poor areas aren’t as good as schools in more middle class areas – even with the same federal funding. There are a lot of reasons for this, but the result is many students are struggling and need free tutoring. Many families today are broken and in impoverished areas, the single parent may be working long hours. Often children are left at home alone for extended periods of time. When the parent is home, he or she may be too tired to give their children all of the attention and help they need. Teens, with training and guidance, can provide tutoring and mentoring for younger children.
- Volunteer at shelters for the homeless, abused women and children, etc. Some volunteer roles at shelters aren’t available to teens, but many are. Try to get them involved with a shelter connected to Christianity if possible or that will allow your group to lead Bible studies for those who are interested.
- Work to end sexual trafficking. There are Christian groups in many areas who have already started ministries. It may not be appropriate for teens to get involved in every area of this ministry, but many outreach programs provide Bible studies and activities for the young children of those in sexual trafficking while they try to work with the parent. Many children are thrust into the hallways of extended stay motels while their parent is with a “client”. They hate this and would love a safe place to go while their parent is “working”. Some ministries give out scarves, meals or other items to encourage people to talk with them about getting help. Your teens may be able to learn to knit scarves or make meals for these groups.
- Learn and teach financial planning to kids and teens. Money management skills are not innate. They must be taught. People like Dave Ramsey have easy to use programs that mature teens could use to help young people, especially those living in generational poverty, by teaching them how to make budgets, avoid debt, write resumes and more. (Plus they may learn helpful stewardship skills themselves.)
- Volunteer with an urban or other similar ministry. Urban ministries often have a lot of needs for volunteer help. Teens with any number of gifts can use them to serve these often understaffed ministries. Young people can learn a lot about ministry by apprenticing under effective urban ministers.
- Encourage godly stewardship of our environment. Many older Christians are turned off by global warming and other things they consider to be political and manipulative. Yet, the Bible makes it clear God wants us to be good stewards of everything He gives us, including our environment. Framing practices like recycling as biblical stewardship, rather than to prevent climate change, can be more impactful, successful and sustainable.
- Growing a community garden. There are multiple ways to do this. Teens can grow vegetables on church property and then take the produce to areas with food insecurity to share with families or ministries. Motivated young people may be able to find a way to provide community garden space and training in food impoverished areas and support local families in their efforts to grow their own healthy food. They can also teach classes and provide the materials for families with food insecurity to grow vegetables in containers when no land is available.
- Help expunge criminal records of crimes committed when minors. Some young people make criminal mistakes when they are young, but then realize they are on a bad path and make meaningful changes in their lives. Unfortunately, those crimes committed previously can make it more difficult for them to get jobs. You don’t necessarily have to be a lawyer to help someone expunge their record. Unfortunately, many of these young people don’t know this can be done or how to do it. If there is a lawyer in your congregation that can guide teens, that would be great. This link gives you the basics that will help most people.
Helping teens find meaningful ways to serve others and share their faith in areas about which they are passionate will probably take a lot of extra time and effort on your part. The results though, may end up not only helping those served, but strengthens the faith of those teens you are guiding. We strongly believe it’s worth making any necessary sacrifices to encourage young people to actively live their faith.