Written by Maddi Prinn
It really does take a village to raise a child, especially for parents who want their child to know and love the Lord. I work as a kids and youth director at a small church on Vancouver Island, and I feel the weight of that statement every day.
No matter who you are, you are part of the village, too—whether you are an empty-nester looking for a place to serve in this new season of your life or a youth leader or someone who just joined a church or someone in a new city feeling isolated as you seek Christ alone.
The truth is, a youth needs five relationships with Christian adults to have a good chance of pursuing faith in Jesus after high school, according to Hemorrhaging Faith, a study commissioned by the EFC Youth and Young Adult Ministry Roundtable.
At my church we say, “Be one of the five.” What does that mean, and what might that relationship look like?
Let me give you an example of “one of the five” in my life. I met Carol in 2011 when I started teaching Sunday school at church. Two years later, when I transitioned into her position as the children’s director, she took me under her wing and taught me everything she knew. We always enjoyed serving together, but in that transition our relationship changed.
We began going for coffee, emailing, and texting (sometimes about ministry and sometimes about personal life), and serving together in other ways. Carol became key in my maturing as a Christian and becoming an effective and godly leader—all because we share a passion for kids and Jesus.
Fast forward to 2020. I live across the province in a completely different season of life than hers, but we have been writing emails and letters back and forth for years. Whenever I visit my hometown, she and I go for coffee to catch up. She always makes time for me, even if it means we catch up in the freezing cold hockey arena while her son is at goalie practice. This relationship has been long-distance for five of the nine years I have known her, but it has been enduring and has greatly impacted my life.
Being “one of the five” simply means cultivating a relationship with someone. Many youth and young adults would love to have an older friend or a mentor, but it can be really intimidating to approach someone older and ask them to invest in you, especially in an age where online connection takes precedence over face-to-face interaction.
Friends, if we are going to be “one of the five” to a younger Christian, we will probably have to initiate. You might know someone already—a youth in your church, a friend’s sibling, a teen on the team you coach, a volunteer in your ministry, etc. The task can feel weighty, but each of us has something to offer! Being “one of the five” can be as simple as knowing a bit about the person’s life and asking about it when you see them.
If you are willing, there are boundless options to connect in an even deeper way. Carve out an hour a month to go out for coffee, mini-golf, or a movie. Create something in common to talk about. Attend a couple of their team’s basketball games. Go for a walk after church to talk about the sermon. Explore a new area of town. Make dinner together. Ask them to help you do a DIY project.
I once built a relationship with a youth who was going through a hard time but wasn’t much of a talker. I am one of the most extroverted people you will ever meet and I love to talk, so that was a challenge! I learned she loved doing things with her hands, so I engaged her by asking her to help me with the little repairs in our youth building. Suddenly, she began to share about her life. It was so simple, but God used it to create a meaningful relationship.
The Lord has a beautiful design for community, and it exists beyond the confines of peer groups or similar stages of life. We need diverse relationships in order to pursue a faith that is richly steeped in community. Impactful community is built, not found, so let’s be “one of the five.”