Reaching Teens on the Edge

You'll be better prepared to connect with teens living alternative lifestyles if you remember these things.

1. Unchurched youth, especially those living alternative lifestyles, have a different mindset than churched kids. Sometimes it helps to keep the groups separate, meeting on different nights.

2. Be relaxed and accepting. If a teen senses a judgmental attitude (even as subtle as body language), you've lost them.

3. Be yourself. You don't have to dress like them to reach them.

4. Meet in a neutral location, such as a parking lot, rather than inside the church.

5. You don't have to spend a lot of money to get started. Offering inexpensive snacks and drinks says they're welcome.

6. After you've established the ground rules, "major in the majors and minor in the minors." Focus only on major rule infractions, such as drugs, property damage, or confrontational arguments. Give God time to work in their lives and change their behavior.

7. The attention span of unchurched youth is short. Keep messages to the larger group about five minutes long and to the point. Then talk one-on-one to establish personal relationships.

8. Remind yourself that underneath the tough exterior is a young person who wants acceptance, a listening ear, answers to life's questions. You can provide that as a Christian.

9. Approach them with confidence and faith. Don't get discouraged; the outcome is in God's hands. Keep a seed mentality. You may not see results for a while. Often seeds you plant take years to germinate.

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