Young people today feel more lonely and isolated than ever. In fact a study in the U.K. found that 40% of people aged 16-24 reported feeling lonely often or very often. In teens, those reporting being lonely jumped from 18% to 37% in a six year period. From the very beginning in Genesis, we learn that people struggle when they are alone. God created community for us with first our families and then our friends. Perhaps the most important community in which God wants us to participate is His church.
Yet many Christian parents and teens rush in and out of worship service and classes and activities for teens, leaving little time for developing meaningful friendships. Age groups silo and may rarely even be exposed to older Christians who could encourage and mentor them. You may be able to help ease the loneliness of your young Bible students by exploring what God planned for Christian community to be and do for those who participate in it.
Begin by looking at some of the churches mentioned in Acts and other books in the New Testament. Even then community could be problematic. People are people after all. What types of issues did they face? What did the Apostles and other New Testament writers suggest to overcome these issues? Now go back and look for the positive things the early Christians experienced in community with fellow believers. Don’t forget to mention things like sending financial support to those in need and helping others when they were sick or struggling in some way.
The key is helping students see that although Christian community can be problematic at times, they will almost always benefit from involving themselves in Christian community. Have them list the people they believe are in their support network or community. What are some ways they can make their community larger or stronger? Encourage them to plan and execute a class activity that will help them meet new Christians who could potentially become part of their support network. After the gathering, spend time discussing ways to expand their circle of support.
For students who struggle for various reasons, help them analyze the issues they might be having finding helpful, supportive friends. Encourage them to focus on being a more supportive friend to others. In turn, they may they have built a stronger support network. Teaching and encouraging young people to be more engaged with Christian community can take a lot of time and effort, but being more connected with other Christians can help them avoid many of the more serious issues that can arise from loneliness.