"Focusing on a real problem lays the foundation for adults and youth to combine the wisdom, knowledge and experience of the former and the vibrancy, creativity and the youthful perspective of the latter." —College student
Problem-Solving Builds Relationships
Students know only too well that putting a 16-year-old with a 60-year-old can be weird if they lack a common purpose. Their unique solution — they called it Generation Spark — was to pair teams of one young person, one adult, and one prayer partner and give this shared pupose: to meet one hour per week to solve a real-life problem in their church or community.
But the problem is not the primary purpose; it is merely the glue. The primary purpose for their time together is the relationship itself. An on-going conversation about faith, calling, career, marriage and leadership. About life.
Although Generation Spark suggests 35 different possible problems, each participating youth has selected his/her own problem. Several examples follow:
- Reverse mentoring/social media
- Anxious to give their church (Beckwith Hills CRC) an outreach program to reach younger generations, tech-savvy Charlie and Mark, his mentor, updated the church's soical media and created an Instagram platform. Instagram will allow the church to reach out to more people, especially youth, within the community while keeping current members up-to-date.
- Reverse mentoring/mental health awareness
- Olivia, an incredibly brave mentee at Victory Point Church who has experience with self-harm and suicidal tendencies, asked Cathy, her mentor, for help in developing a strategy to inform the church about this problem and challenge/teach church members and others to be available to people with this need. They called the strategy INDIGO, an acronym for "Inspire-New-Direction-Imagine-Great-Outcomes." Because Olivia was not comfortable speaking to the entire congregation, the church shared a video of Olivia and Cathy at the morning service. Members were invited to visit a table in the narthex to get an INDIGO wrist band and a one-page overview of the project.
- Building ministry awareness/engagement
- Drew, a mentee from Victory Point Church with experience as a volunteer at Benjamin's Hope, a residential program for adults with intellectual and developmental differences, including autism, worked with his mentor, Tom, in developing a PowerPoint to inform church members about this ministry and give them tangible ways to be involved with residents.
- Meeting neighbors' nutritional needs
- When Jessica discovered that her goal--to develop a food pantry at her church (Beckwith Hills CRC) - would unnecessarily duplicate existing services, she and Marcy, her mentor, conducted additional research. They discovered that all area food banks had the same need: fresh produce. Jessica nad Marcy are developing that ministry, called "Fresh Fund" at Beckwith Hills.
- Hoping to give youth at Faith Reformed (Zeeland, MI) a voice in leading the church, Dustin and Russ, his mentor, gave the church a plan to create a Youth Governing Board. Acting much like a collective internship, the Youth Governing Board would operate alongside the Church Governing Board, giving youth a voice while learning to lead by seeing first-hand how their church is led and managed.