If you happen to go into the lower floor of the education wing on a rainy Sunday morning during the school year, you are likely to see little groups, pods, small circles, of teenagers. Everywhere. In the corners, in the hallways, in the Children’s Library, in the little sitting area at the foot of the stairs. What is that about?!
When this building was built two rooms were set aside to be youth spaces. The idea was that they would be only for youth – no one else would use them. And, that they would be suitable for a Sunday School class as well as the “youth group” experience. And we did that, and it worked pretty well – for about a year. It was not long before more kids wanted to participate than we had space for. (And we also had to make those rooms available for groups other than the youth because other aspects of our ministry were growing, too.)
The concept of Sunday school for middle- and high-school students has changed in those intervening years. More interactive, less lecture is increasingly the norm for effective youth ministry these days. So, it is pretty common to have worship, a skit, a teaching time led by a teacher, and then break the class up into smaller groups for discussion of that morning’s topic and Scripture passage. These smaller groups need some distance from each other or the participants won’t be able to hear each other. In our situation, several go out of the classroom. On a nice day they might go outside to the pavilion or the lawn. But when the weather is not nice enough for that they find nooks and crannies inside everywhere.
And worship, having a youth band leading worship as part of both the Sunday morning and the youth group experience, is more common in youth ministry these days than it was when our building was built. Youth need a space where their worship music will not distract from other activities. At this point they do not have that kind of space at all on Sunday mornings.
We have three things that we would like to solve with newly-designed youth space: first, we would like to have more space for our ministry to middle- and high-school students; we have more kids. We would also like to have more different kinds of space – space for worship and large-group teaching, space for small discussion or prayer groups to break off from the main group, and space for games and socializing. And third, we would like this space to be specially designed for youth – oriented to youth in decor, in furnishings, and in availability. We can’t do any of those things in the current building, even with renovations. There simply is not the kind or quantity of space.
We do not know at this time exactly what this will need to be like. But, we are researching youth space in particular as part of this project (remember that Youth is one of the workgroups that we are forming).