that most teens (and many adults) do not respond to the written word; a phone call is what ultimately counts!How Can the Meeting Help?
The threshing session should be casual and friendly. Refreshments and beverages should be available. An icebreaker activity should be planned so that people can loosen up and feel relaxed.
Before presenting any ideas of your own, ask teens and parents what kind of program they would like. List their responses on a black board or large piece of newsprint.
1) How often would you like to meet? What time is most convenient?
2) What kind of activities are you interested in? Games, work, worship sharing?
3) What should the goals and objectives of the youth program be?
Once you have a clear idea of the needs and concerns of teens and adults, share your own ideas. Decide on a set of goals and expectations that is mutually agreeable and write them down. This will be your mission statement for the first year.
The next step is to call a threshing session for the entire meeting. Explain the goals and objectives of the program, and ask for input.
Once the meeting is in unity and feels ready to proceed, it's time to begin!
First, it can offer financial support. Meetings should provide funds for educational materials (such as the books listed above) as well as for film rentals, gas, travel expenses, phone calls, mailings, etc. Scholarships should be established so that junior Friends can go to SCQM, PYM, SCQM youth service projects, and other youth-related Quaker activities. Ideally, these scholarships should be available to all, and should cover at least one half of the cost of these activities.
Second, the meeting should involve teens in worship-sharing and decision-making. Many meetings are "gerontocracies" where young people, and even parents with children, feel excluded. In these cases, Friends should invite a youth rep (or youth reps) to come and feel a part of the meeting's decision-making process. This is particularly true when the meeting plans retreats and other activities.
Worship-sharing activities should be planned with teens and children in mind. When intergenerational worship-sharing took place during SCQM's winter retreat this year, many found it a very fulfilling experience. Intergenerational worship-sharing is facilitated by activities such as drawing, clay-sculpting, singing, or games. Such a change in worship-sharing style can be liberating for adults as well as for children since it obliges people to rely less on words and "notions" and more on creativity and the Spirit.
Third, Friends can volunteer to help. Those with energy and time can serve as chaperones (or "adult presences"), especially for youth outings. Older adults may be led to become spiritual "mentors" for teens. As several young friends indicated during PYM, many teens like to interact with older people who are not their parents. They enjoy hearing about the life experiences and imbibing the gentle wisdom of the elderly. Teens also like to be listened to, and taken seriously; and such creative listening is something at which older Friends are often particularly adept. Older Friends may find it helpful to invite teens to their homes to do chores (such a lawn-mowing or house work). Teens who have cars should be encouraged to pay visits on sick or house-bound members of meeting. These interactions enable teens and adults to get to know each other better. Such acquaintanceships may evolve into deep and meaningful spiritual friendships.
These are just a few suggestions for enabling Quakers to reach out to and regain their youth. The possibilities for growth, renewal and yes, rejuvenation, are limitless. It is up to each meeting, and each individual, to find a Spirit-led way to respond to the John Woolman's sensible advice regarding the spiritual education of children and youth:
To watch the spirit of children, to nurture them in Gospel Love, and labor to help them against that which would mar the beauty of their minds, is a debt we owe them; and the faithful performance of our duty not only tends to their lasting benefit and own peace, but also to render their company agreeable to us...