“Youth are the future of this community.”
“Youth are the torchbearers of Islam.”
“Young Muslims are our top priority!”
How many times have we heard these empty slogans at our Masjids?
If youth development or youth engagement is not on the agenda of our board meetings, how can it be a “priority” for our Masjid or organisation?
If young Muslim women and men are not even part of our board, committees, or leadership today, how can we expect to pass on the torch to them tomorrow?
If there is no budget item for youth work or youth engagement, why proclaim our commitment to serve and save the next generation of Islam?
This systemic neglect on our part as community leaders and organisations has resulted in many young professionals distancing themselves from traditional places of worship. There is an entire “unMosqued” movement born out of this frustration. Many young, practicing Muslims have been looking for “third spaces” to activate their volunteer efforts.
Although some Islamic organisations have become more youth-conscious and youth-friendly over the past decade, we have a long way to go in terms of meaningful youth engagement.
Here are some conceptual and practical tips to rethink and reorganise our Islamic organisations, and Masjids for positive and effective youth engagement:
- Muslim ‘Youth Nights’
- Choose a topic focused on God’s Attributes and character-building and hold a discussion.
- Hold interactive quizzes and activities.
- Make sure plenty of pizza, snacks, and drinks are present, along with healthier alternatives (e.g. vegetables and dip)
- Encourage entertainment
Islam does and has allowed for artistic expression, and there are ways young Muslims, who often enjoy music and other forms of entertainment can benefit from a Masjid-focused Halal entertainment event such as:
- Nasheed (Islamic song) competitions
- Islamic art and poetry
- Publicly consult youth to transform your Masjid or organisation’s culture
It takes time and listening to develop events and projects that young Muslims really care for. It requires significant consultation with youth, research on best practices in the mainstream and Muslim communities, and restructuring of your organisation’s human and financial resources. Have a print and online survey for youth to submit their ideas. Organise a focus group session with key young leaders.
- Invite young leaders to join your board and treat them like leaders.
Young Muslims are smart, tech-and-media-savvy, and creative. Mentor them with your experience and wisdom, and give them room to experiment and make mistakes. Don’t treat them or their work as insignificant. Value and recognize their contribution to the organisation and the community.
- Go Beyond ‘Youth lectures’
Engagement is more than educational lectures. Given the limited attention span of youth and the culture of distractions, thanks to the explosive growth of social media, texting, and gadgets, most youth are not interested in one-way communication. Youth engagement, from a programming perspective, requires interaction, entertainment, and experiential learning.
Information taken from www.soundvision.com