Alhamdulillah, we took 4 of our local stars from youth group to Unity FM 93.5 – Heart Of The City to experience the media buzz! Was an awesome experience!
Having been involved in the youthgroup from its inception a year ago, I can truly say its been one of the most enjoyable and beneficial things I’ve experienced alhamdulillah. It’s not been easy though! When we first started, I thought to myself several times about leaving it all! I remember more than one occasion when I had to “set the record straight” with them 🙂
…but with perserverence, sincerity and genuine care, you will see the fruits of your work come to bear sooner than you think! Several parents have said to me how much they’ve noticed a change in their kids alhamdulillah. But what struck me the most was when I asked the kids themselves how many of them felt they had changed in a good way since we began. All of them (thats 30+) put their hands up. Alhamdulillah.
What’s the secret recipe I hear you ask? Simple, it’s comprised of 5 things (in order of what to do first):
- (1) Social: The fact of the matter is kids won’t like coming at first, especially if they dont know anyone. You have to be very extrovert and break their fear barrier of being out place. Make them feel welcome and help them get to know the others quickly. Pack each week with different activities and make it fun (yes, study circles are boring to them!). With boys, an easy was to do this is football. 75% of them like it and it breaks barriers quickly. Once you have a critical mass, spread out and do other things to make it a more holistic programme.
- (2) Spiritual: Religion is about experience. They have to feel the positive impact it has on them, especially in a time when we’re encouraged to pursue our pleasures. In our youth group, we introduced a very simple routine of doing 10 minutes of dhikr at the end of each session together – and it’s worked miracles! I could write an essay on this alone, but you wont believe me until you try it yourself
- (3) Intellectual: To supplement the spiritual, the kids need to feel intellectually satisfied with their religion. They are being bombarded with challenges left, right and centre, and you need to provide them with a place to go to get their answers. We’ve created a dedicated session called “candid conversations” where we bring the awkward topics to the fore and discuss them openly and honestly under Chatham House rules. Nothing leaves the room. Alongside this, we do regular short talks and encourage them to prepare stuff too, all to provide short iman boosts
- (4) Emotional: The kids need to feel loved. Every single one of those who attend needs to feel like they are welcome and cared for. One of my teachers advised me to make a list of every single one of their names and make dua for them every night in tahajjud. Let them know you are doing it too, as at that age, you need to be the positive rolemodel in teir lives. With time, they will realise all that you are doing for them and they will respect you for it, especially if its all voluntary!
- (5) Empowerment: The final and most important step is to make them feel involved. Give them ownership. We all have a natural shelf-life and we need to constantly be thinking about succession planning. I remember a mentor of mine telling me the first responsibility of any leader is to train up his successor. Initially, this will be mean putting in double the effort than and managing about 90% of the work. They will almost certainly make mistakes and its unlikely to look as good as if you had done it alone. But with time, they will learn and get better, then sooner or later you’ll be putting your feet up whilst they run the show – for your own kids hopefully!!
For those of you wanting to give back to your community, I highly recommend doing something similar. There are few things which can teach you more than this, and if you can manage 10-16 year olds well, you can manage anyone!
As for those who already have their fingers in lots of pies, this is something you should be doing too! Giving something local to your community helps lay the foundations for your communities future. Plus, this is an awesome experience in teaching you self discipline 🙂