Nurture of the Teen Group by Community Friends Meeting and Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting

By Eileen Bagus with help from Hannah Branson

Because children are important to Community Friends Meeting of Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting we continue to keep thinking of new ways to make them feel a welcome part of the meeting family. Our youngest children, infants and toddlers, have a paid child care worker for worship hour and second hour which is adult education. Classes for older pre-schoolers through grade school children are taught by volunteers from the meeting. But teens are often difficult to engage in meeting life. For them we have made some special efforts.

Junior high through high school students are invited to become members of our teen group. A mother-daughter team, Wilhelmina and Hannah Branson, have devotedly served a coordinators for the teen group for a number of years. The teens conduct their own meetings for business and cooperatively plan their educational program and social activities. Since a number of the teens work and have other responsibilities, as well as involvement in sports and school activities, the group found it best to meet every other week. The meeting dedicated a special room as the teen room and the teens and their coordinators worked to fix it up and decorate it to their tastes.

Community Friends Meeting includes teens in committee work. They are invited to be a part of a committee of their choice. We have had participants on Nominating Committee and Ministry and Counsel. within the larger Quaker body, we have had participants on the Teen Committee of Ohio Valley Yearly Meeting and on the FGC Planning Committee. Other ways that we involve our teen sin the life of the meeting are by inviting them to share at meeting for business regarding their yearly meeting retreats and overnights as well as travel experiences. We also have a tradition of holding an annual second hour discussion in which the teens share with the adults what it is like to be a teen today.

When a teen graduates from high school, the meeting usually gives them a gift book such as Fox’s Journal and a subscription to Friends Journal. We are just starting a new mentoring program in which one member of Ministry and Counsel will contact each teen shortly before high school graduation and offer to be of help to them if they have any desire to discuss the status of their spiritual journey or would like a reading list or information about Friends opportunities for young adults to stay connected with the Society, or if anyone is ready to request clearness regarding membership.

Our yearly meeting has made major commitments to welcoming young people. Any young person through high school can attend yearly meeting annually as a guest with all expenses paid by the yearly meeting. For several years we have had a teen coordinator, a half-time paid position for an individual to plan and coordinate activities for the teen group. Activities include regular gatherings at quarterly and yearly meeting and retreats in between, as well as an annual week-long trip to work on a Habitat for Humanity house-building project in North Carolina. We are in process of adding a second coordinator for the junior high group.

We feel blessed in the large numbers of young people who attend our monthly and yearly meetings and hope some of these ideas can help keep young people connected with other Friends meetings.

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