Growing up in Maine, I went to small churches. One youth group had only two kids, a younger girl and me. Once a week we climbed the rickety stairs above the sanctuary to sit at a folding table across from a beard. Behind the beard was a mouth, and above it a pair of eyes partially hidden by very bushy eyebrows. When the mouth moved, we opened our stapled youth books and began reading.

Needless to say, it wasn’t something I looked forward to.

My own kids also go to a small church. That’s why I was very excited a couple months ago when some folks across the river at the North Woolwich Methodist Church invited all the area youth leaders together to talk about what was going on with the youth in their churches. One church had just started a youth band. Another was big on scavenger hunts and day camps. One (okay, mine!) was launching a book club.

Two hours later, I drove home through the late spring dark, listening to the peepers and full of ideas for how to coordinate church activities for area youth. The needs are many–particularly with one recent teen suicide and another suicide attempt.

Growing up, I’m sure my church did the best it could. But working together we have more to offer–more than a stapled youth manual and an awkward hour with a beard.

In Galatians, the Apostle Paul writes of “faith working through love.” That’s my hope as Mid-coast Maine’s youth leaders gather once again this week to work together. Today’s young people need to see faith at work. Love is the fuel that feeds the fire.

If you could add one element to your church’s youth group, what would it be? What are some things your church does right? Anything you wish your church did differently?