Beyond Spirituality: A Look at Youth Ministry in Waukesha
Local churches involve youth in traditional and unique ways.
Religion can offer a foundation of morals and beliefs for adolescents but also a chance to make friends and connections with mentors. A relaxed atmosphere in some Waukesha churches have allowed students to do just that. Some church pastors and educators said they have seen an increase in youth participation over the past few years.
"There's definitely more kids," said Nik Johnson, a youth leader at Waukesha First Assembly of God located on Grand Avenue. "When I first started there were 15 or 30 (students), now there's 90 and only four adult leaders. It's really popular."
Johnson credited the laid-back atmosphere and contemporary ministry techniques for the youth group's popularity. A typical youth service at First Assembly, held on Wednesday nights, consists of 25 minutes of worship, which include music and prayer and then small group discussions.
"If a kid is having problems, we pull them aside and pray with them," Johnson said.
Johnson will spend time during the week mentoring students who are having problems, he said.
Through worship and community, the students at First Assembly are becoming more responsible and less involved in inappropriate or illegal activitie, Johnson said.
"It's beyond spiritual, it's good for the community," Johnson said.
There are ways beyond Bible studies and youth groups to involve students in ministry. The Rev. Jerome Spencer of New Beginnings Christian Church believes in unique approaches. The youth-run events at his church include plays, church services and volunteering events.
And, an unusual way to involve youth is through aviation lessons.
"We teach average teens to fly airplanes and as soon as they get in there, they're gone," Spencer said. "They're afraid they don't have control."
Spencer assures his congregation that flying lessons teach children communication skills, trust and confidence. It also allows children – who may never go in an airplane otherwise – to fly themselves around this part of the country.
"A 14-year-old flew me to Gary, IN," Spencer said.
Waukesha resident Rachel Antczak places importance on her desire for her child to grow up with religion.
"My dad taught me no matter what I was never alone, because Jesus is always with you and he can help you in many hard times when you can't always talk to other people," Antczak said.