Community involvement is an integral part of growing up; in fact, less socialization often associates with an increased risk of mental health issues. Companionship is part of our physical and mental well-being, and it’s something God calls us to do. There are many different options through youth groups, urban centers, and church conferences to get teens involved.
We’ll offer succinct and actionable advice to get teens involved in the community, open them up to spiritual exchange, and help them prepare for adulthood through service.
Establish a Generous Mindset in the Home
Whether your teen is enthusiastic about community involvement or reticent to step outside of their comfort zone, the right mindset needs to be exemplified and developed in the home first. Without the parents setting an example of community involvement and giving, the teens will rarely take the first step themselves.
Regardless of the myriad of cultural influences vying for teens’ attention, parents still remain the number one influencer in their decisions, values, and mindset. As such, the first way to get teens interested in the community is to initiate community service and socializing at home. For example, your family can start clearing out clothes, unused toys, or other items to a thrift store or charity, fostering a mindset of charity and service above self.
You can also emphasize the importance of family engagement as a means to prompt community involvement. Family dinners, prayers, community service, or other ‘together’ activities. Share your gifts, time, and passion with your teens, and they will feel comfortable doing the same.
The correlation between family togetherness and community involvement may not immediately be clear, but the more your teens see their parents and older siblings investing their own time and energy into small acts of service, the more likely they are to see the merit in community service.
Similarly, teens encouraged to participate in family activities will feel as though their voice is heard, a sentiment that is appreciated and reflected in community-based activities.
Teens can sometimes seem aloof while they wrestle with the complex cocktail of hormones involved in adolescence. Nonetheless, the bottom line is that teens who see their parents and people they admire involved in the community are more likely to engage in the community themselves. They will feel a stronger sense of self-efficacy through involvement, which will equip them for their future goals, whether physical, educational, or spiritual.
Actionable Steps Towards Community Involvement
Of course, the right attitude is an excellent start, but where might an interested teen get started in their community?
Trying New Things
‘Trying new things’ is an overtalked mantra filled with unhelpful platitudes, but when you peel away all of the cliches, the core truth remains: it’s good for teens to try new things.
Finding something they’re passionate about not only offers fulfillment but also provides an entire world of community involvement they may never have discovered otherwise. Whether art, music, theater, writing, or sports, a community underlies and surrounds almost every type of activity. Sure, some activities might be disappointing or unpleasant experiences, but it’s good for teens to discover a mindset of curiosity rather than one of complacency.
Even something as simple as a weekly youth group meeting can provide teens with a support structure for the struggles they face in day-to-day life. Of course, resources like these also provide additional community outreach options, such as volunteering in local homeless shelters, soup kitchens, or nursing homes.
Getting Involved with Family
When talking about community, most people forget that family is a community worth fighting for; taking the time to set up family gatherings and connect with family members around the country regularly is a direct outgrowth of the community mindset we mentioned earlier. Teens should keep in touch with their family community, whether through family reunions, regular FaceTime with grandparents, or interacting with younger cousins.
In addition to trying new activities for personal growth and community involvement, teens can find their passion and develop a Christ-like attitude of self-sacrifice by volunteering their time. There are a myriad of options for teens to volunteer, including the following:
- Participating in a walkathon – Walkathons are a great way to show support for meaningful fundraisers and nonprofits that aim to make a difference. Sacrificing a Saturday morning to support a good cause (and get some exercise!) is an excellent practice for community involvement.
- Helping cleanup efforts – There’s always something that can be done in any given area to help preserve nature. Whether that’s a cleanup day at a local trail or a trash-collecting walk along the beach, the opportunities for learning and involvement are endless.
- Helping during the holidays – Christmas and Thanksgiving specifically are two holidays that are bitter for families and individuals who don’t have a home or community of their own. Teens can volunteer at local organizations to put food on the table and make/provide gifts during the holidays.
- Volunteering at a nonprofit organization – Many nonprofit organizations are worth considering and offer a great outlet for community service. If a teen loves animals, for example, volunteering at a local animal shelter is a highly fulfilling way for them to get involved in the community, build relationships with like-minded people, and develop their sense of confidence working in an unfamiliar environment.
- Working with special-needs students – There are numerous organizations in place to help children with disabilities achieve more, and teens can be part of their success stories through volunteer work.
The Bottom Line
Community is essential to human nature; without it, we become selfish, closed-off, and bitter. A mindset of community involvement starts in the home, and the benefits of this mindset for teens cannot be overstated. Community service, as an example, provides countless outlets for teens to express themselves, build connections, discover their passions, and reach out into the community to make a real difference.
Local organizations, churches, and teen-centered programs offer many opportunities for teens to get involved in their community to find passion and fulfillment through service and relationships.