This is the 6th key or formational experience in part of a series on Making Young Disciples. We have been looking at how we can help our young people not walk away from church and/or faith in their early adolescent years. Press the link at the bottom of this article to read about making young Disciples.
It is true in life that we grow to be like our friends. Therefore, the more time we spend with our friends the more we will be influenced by their values and the actions that result. It is also true in life that we cannot choose our children’s friends. However, there are some things that parents and mentors can do to help each child and young person in the choices they make about friends.
As children grow in age the influence and importance of the peer group becomes more dominant often at the expense of parental influence. This underlines the importance of creating positive peer environments for our children.
Two are better than one,because they have a good return for their labor:
if either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Eccl 4:9-12)
Principles and practical ideas to inspire you as you implement this Formational Experience into your long term plan:
We are not mean to travel alone in this life. With one true friend and God we make a three stranded cord that is not easily broken. Like the old saying “there is strength in numbers”, but the key is it need to be positive strength.
Why do our young people need to have a positive peer community?
- Studies show that positive peers reduce bullying, aggressive anti social behaviour and that people feel more accepted and their wellbeing is increased (Helen McGrath, Deakin University, www.bounceback.com)
- We are social beings and we naturally gravitate to people with like minded passion. Peer groups will form naturally, our challenge is to help each other stay on track with Christ at the centre, we are responsible to help each other in our faith walk.
- Build relationships with other families who have similar values.
- Talk with children about wise choices and actions and consequences.
- Encourage children to bring their best friends to be part of the Church community.
- Sport – Christian team or involve yourself teams, Soccer team
- Intentionally training kids about friendship. See www.Kidsmatter.edu.au – social/emotional programs
- Internships and Jnr Leadership programs where peers work together for a greater cause.
- Create group identity e.g. T shirts, badges, special privileges etc.
- Encourage opportunities to serve together, a shared goal helps deepen relationships.
- Create spaces with the same gender, so they can feel supported in what they are going through and realise they are not alone.
- Encourage families to open up their home so their kids can have their peers over and create a safe place for them to connect and bond in positive ways.
- Vacation care/after school care/ holiday camps
This is the 6th out of a series, so have a read of the other articles and great ideas on Making Young Disciples that we have published, courtesy of www.here2stay.org.au.