Once a week, Abide, and Lions of Judah meet for about two hours on a weeknight. The day of the week they meet will vary based on the individual YDC, but a Monday through Thursday are the most probable options, since Fridays and weekends would conflict with too many other family routines/obligations. The following describes the purpose and goals of having weekly meetings:
Easy Entry: Weekly meetings should be socially interactive and welcoming to the population of the YDC. We like to call it the Living Room of the YDC. It makes it easy for new comers and guests to be introduced to one of the sub-communities of Abide or Lions of Judah. Membership is not required to attend these meetings. The easy participation format allows people to ease into the YDC at their own pace. Usually, after a few weeks of attending meetings, visitors are asked if they would like to make a more formal commitment. The consistency of weekly meetings and the open door format, allow alumni and inactive members to drop in from time to time. This approach communicates to the youth, families, and the mentors, that the proverbial light of our home is on, and that they’re always welcome. This living room style serves as a hub which opens the doors to the other program elements of the community.
Sense of Belonging: Building off the Living Room atmosphere of a weekly meeting and the idea that the light of our home is always on. The role this plays in the lives of its members fills a void, that if it goes unmet, makes people, youth particularly, seek it out in unhealthy relationships that make them vulnerable. For boys, an example of one of these unhealthy relationships is the lure of a local gang. For girls, the sex trafficking industry, preys on their need to have this void filled in their hearts. Our community has to be more effective at building a sense belonging than the negative alternatives that are available to our youth! There are many things that can be done to build this kind of culture within our community. Clothing, like t-shirts and hoodies, or ceremonies to commemorate membership commitments and other milestones within the group. Most important is how we engage in the consistency of meeting together and how we treat each other when we do! If youth see consistent participation from the YDC, then they will believe they are a part of something that matters. If the YDC can truly practice the Core Values well, then the youth will learn what healthy relationships look and feel like!
Frequent Reinforcement: Building off the concept of creating a sense of belonging, frequent reinforcement has to do with how believable it is in the eyes and heart of the participants. To give you a picture of how this works each week let’s look at the routine of a typical weekly meeting. Group leaders should be there 15-20 minutes early to greet the first arrivals and prep for any activities that will be happening during the meeting. This reinforces the principle of presence and the atmosphere that the lights are on and the door of the community is open. As members arrive to the meeting they should be welcomed in a personal manner. People are visiting and mingling until a majority of the members arrive. Easy Entry (game like) activities that allow people to engage as they arrive could be going on, like tossing a Frisbee around. This happens for about the first 30 minutes. Once the main body of members has arrived, an interactive, hands on, type of activity happens, that can involve 10-20 people for about 45-60 minutes. Each group can decide what that will be. This can be a more organized game by dividing up into teams. It could be a work project related to fundraising efforts, preparations for an upcoming monthly outing the group will be going on, or an activity one of the youth are doing for an Advocates 4 Life (See Program Element Three, page 36). Basically it’s a block of time that can be used in several different ways and it is really up to each YDC what they want to do with it. The main idea is that it should be an interactive and hands on kind of time. The meeting ends with a Director’s Cut. This is a 20-30 minute block of time where the group slows down and reflects on the main purpose and the values of the group. It could be an object lesson of some type, or guest speaker who has a message that reinforces the values of the community. It is more sedentary and reflective, but it should not be a one way directional form of communication. Questions are encouraged to be asked, and members should be challenged to dissect the meaning of what the community stands for and how they are living up to it.
This pattern is followed every week and it is the rhythm of this pattern that influences the reinforcement of the kind of outcomes we want to make in the lives of youth and their families. The formula is simply and there is no rocket science going on in this process, yet the fruit it can bear in the lives of those who partake goes deep into the spring waters of our hearts as people who are made in the image of God. When we get to heaven, it will not be just you and him, it will be us and him too. Every nation and tongue will live with God, in community with each other. As we prepare for that day, a Youth Development Community is a good format to practice bringing God’s will on earth as it is Heaven.
Weekly Meetings is the gateway of YDC that leads youth and their families in a holistic manner to all the other benefits it has to offer!