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Engaging Youth in Your Congregation: Lessons from International Restoration Church

Pastor Francois Mikobi, International Restoration Church

Located in Fort Wayne, Indiana, International Restoration Church is committed to spreading the love and teachings of Jesus Christ to their community and beyond. In 2022, they embarked on a mission to better engage local youth with the support of a grant from the Center for Congregations. In this month’s guest blog, Pastor Francois Mikobi shares their journey and insights.

Our youth today face many challenges and find themselves pulled in many different directions. Daily, they are bombarded with messages from a myriad of sources that incessantly chip away at their God-given identities and purpose. As a result, a trend where youth are getting disconnected from the church now prevails.

Not having been spared from this common scourge, the International Restoration Church stood in prayer, resolute in seeking God’s face and guidance on novel ways to engage our youth and reclaim them for Christ.

During our time of wrestling in prayer, we became aware of a grant from the Center for Congregations called the “Formative Power Grant.” We understood the foundational principle around the Formative Power Grant as being the idea that God’s purpose for any congregation is not growth; rather, it is the nurturing and development of human beings. Through the grant application process, our congregation gleaned a lot of valuable lessons and reflected on different methodologies we could potentially utilize in order to effect God’s transformative presence in the lives of our youth.

Youth with Pastors Francois & Salima Mikobi

We offered two cohorts from our Children and Youth programs the opportunity to attend a summer camp at no cost to them. Their return from camp was characterized by great excitement and a sense of agency. We then engaged our youth in significant discussions to determine, from their perspective, what they thought were the best ways to keep their excitement and momentum going. The result of our conversations was the launch of a Youth Bible Study on Wednesday evenings. The overarching goal of the Bible study for us as a church was multi-dimensional; the restoration and transformation of our young people from the inside out and also, most importantly, giving them the opportunity to grow in their faith and build relationships, while also having fun.

As a result, our youth group is seeing steady growth, where we see them inviting their friends to weekly church programs. We have taken the youth to additional summer camps and youth conferences. Last year, we took our youth to Atlanta to visit the Martin Luther King Jr. historical sites associated with the civil rights movement. It was an incredible time that provided our youth with an opportunity to learn about some of the historical struggles and triumphs that have shaped the world we live in today. This trip was quite poignant, giving our youth the opportunity to broaden their worldview, setting them on a challenging, yet fulfilling course of self-discovery, with the goal of attaining Christ-centered agency and self-determination. The momentum continues to grow, and in 2023 alone, we baptized over 30 youth.

Youth visiting MLK Jr. historical sites

As we continue to grow in substance, we find ourselves challenged by a profound scarcity of resources while diligently striving to ensure the sustenance of our youth program. The necessity of acquiring vans or buses to transport our youth to different inspiring activities, programs, and events has become glaringly obvious. However, with small resources already stretched thin, such an expensive acquisition has become a near impossibility. Nonetheless, we remain resilient and steadfast in our pursuit of raising up young men and women that are on fire for God.

Although our initial goal was the transformation of the lives of the youth we had, we realized quite quickly that there were other fringe benefits that accrued to revitalize the church as a whole. Our youth are now serving in different departments in the church ranging from Media, Hospitality, Events, to the Children’s Ministry, etcetera.

We have learned a number of valuable lessons as a church, chief of which has been the idea that for us to effectively engage our youth, we need to be intentional in creating a safe and conducive environment that allows them to be proactive in building relationships with each other, and the community at large, while having fun and growing in their faith. We are beyond excited at what God is doing in the lives of our young people!

Youth group trip

Want to learn more about engaging youth in your own congregation? We invite you to register for our upcoming, live online workshop, “Urbanizing Youth: Navigating Today’s Culture with a Dynamic Gospel” led by Lenmarie Pascall.

This thought-provoking event will explore the urbanization of today’s youth culture and the dynamic interaction with the Gospel. This workshop will be offered twice— April 17 and April 18, 2024—  and will be most theologically relevant to Christian leaders. To learn more or register, click here.

More Photos from International Restoration Church