If you have a church newsletter, you probably have people who are regular contributors. You may even have a designated team that is tasked with making sure there is adequate material for each publication. It's usually pretty easy to spot your faith community's storytellers. They're the first people others go to when they need help remembering former members, pastors or events.
The older stories aren't the only ones that matter, though. While the youth and young adults in your church may have their own programs, they may not have a place where they can share their thoughts and feelings with the whole congregation. Starting a youth writing group has many benefits, as it empowers younger members to be active parts of the church's lore.
Introduce Positive Effects of Journaling
At first, young people may be hesitant to share anything they write. This is pretty common. As they learn to be more independent, teenagers often share their most personal details with only their friends. Acknowledging this tendency can be the difference between success and failure of the youth writing group. Rather than jumping right into asking them to write something for the church newsletter, encourage them to get a journal — or provide journals for them. Talk about the benefits of journaling:
- Relieving stress
- Organizing thoughts
- Setting goals
- Tracking creative ideas
- Capturing memories
Once you have made your case for journaling, encourage them to write as often as possible. Don't impose a strict schedule, such as insisting that they write in it every single day, or it will start to sound like homework. After a few weeks, let them know that they are welcome to share anything they've written with the group.
Provide Space To Receive Feedback and Encouragement
A writing group is a place for members to get constructive notes about what does or doesn't work in the pieces they share. Sharing should always be voluntary, particularly for young or new writers, but introduce the possibility in the first couple of meetings. Many budding writers are looking for opportunities to discuss what they're writing in a safer space than perhaps they would find in the classroom or by sharing with a friend or parent. A group full of other writers is the ideal setting for honing their craft.
Ideally, every youth in your church has someone to whom he or she can confide. That's not always the case, though. Some young people don't feel comfortable talking to parents or other adults about what's going on in their lives, but they don't necessarily have any peers who are close enough to be trusted with their feelings. A writing group with proper ground rules can provide the safe space they need to be heard when they want to be. If they know that what they say will not be shared outside the group unless they choose to reveal it themselves, they are more likely to open up. Even if it takes a while to share with the group, simply writing their thoughts down can release some of the pressure of bottling it up.
Gain a Necessary Perspective
It's easy to see the benefits a youth writing group may have for its members. A pleasant surprise that many churches discover when starting these groups is one of the key advantages to the congregation as a whole: Once the young writers are brave enough to share some of their pieces with the community, members discover a whole new perspective that they didn't even know they were missing. This abundantly enriches the overall story of the church.
There are many benefits to starting a writing group specifically for the youth of the church. They may build new confidence in expressing themselves, and the church certainly learns from hearing their perspectives. It's a great way to develop a new generation of storytellers.