Military culture is completely different than civilian life, yet across the board youth ministry is youth ministry. They still deal with dating issues, questions about God, and how to deal with parents in a Christian family. Yet there is a lot of things to be aware of with these teens and we as youth workers should properly mold our approach to serving them.

Deep Relationships Are Tough

For a typical military family, their tours at a specific base will last three years before they pick up and move to another base (called PCS – Permanent Change of Station) that could be thousands of miles away. So they become really good at making friends, but it is hard to become intimate with them because even if one of them just moved here, the other person could be moving very soon. After the second or third base, the pain of having to lose friends becomes tough. Yet, as youth workers, we can be authentic with them, opening up and showing it is okay to be vulnerable.

Their Worldview Can Be Big

With all of that moving, they probably have a huge appreciation for other cultures. When ninth graders read about World War II, most kids are annoyed that they have to read about something that is so far away and happened so long ago. Military brats that have lived in Europe or Japan have seen the culture and the words in the history books can come alive. At the same time, they realize that the world is bigger than just the school they go to or the town they currently are living in.

They Understand Death

With one or both of their parents being “down range” (in an active combat environment), they constantly have in the back of their minds that they could be killed. In fact, for many civilians a CNN report on two dead in Iraq is something they just flip the channel to something ‘more entertaining.’ But for military families, the room goes quiet till they hear the names of the soldiers, quietly hoping and praying it is not their parents.

by Jeremy Smith

Jeremy serves as a Club Beyond Community Director at the United States Air Force Academy base in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Through the outreach program Club Beyond, Jeremy walks alongside the teens through friendship, Club meetings, Bible studies, special events and service projects, all the while sharing with them the love of Jesus Christ.


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