Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Friendly Guide to Young Friends

Nearly every Quaker group I know is concerned about getting more young people involved. Older Friends frequently ask me how they can get to know Young Adult Friends (YAFs) and how to talk to them. I usually suggest talking to YAFs like you would talk to anyone else. Considering that YAFs range in age from 18 to 35, come from very different backgrounds, and all have their own reasons for coming to meeting, there is never going to be one right way to approach a YAF. However, I have compiled some suggestions based on my own experiences with Quakers, most of which seem pretty obvious. Any YAFs who happen to read my blog are welcome to add to this list.

1. Say hi. This should probably go without saying, but I have heard more than one older Friend say that they are nervous about approaching YAFs. If you are feeling especially brave, consider saying "Hi, I don't think we've met." I think this opening is better than asking if the young person is new to the meeting, which can be alienating if she has been attending unnoticed for a while.

2. Remember why you became a Quaker. What was it that initially drew you to Friends? Were there particular values or an event that made you want to become a Friend? In what ways does your church or meeting embody that experience?

3. Talk about your experience of the Spirit. A lot of young people are searching for authentic spiritual experiences and want to know what Friends are experiencing during silent worship, how others hear that still, small voice, and how that affects the choices Friends make in their daily lives. If Friends are timid about talking for fear of seeming too evangelical, young people will go elsewhere to find these answers.

4. Offer food, rides, and financial support. Everyone likes food and eating together is a great way to get to know someone. Sit next to YAFs at a meal or invite them over for dinner. If there is a YAF group in your church or meeting, offer to host a potluck. If a young person who lives near you does not have a car, offer him a ride. Have funds available for Quaker events and let YAFs know how to apply for scholarships.

5. Provide literature about Friends. Have copies of your Faith and Practice available as well as other texts about Friends, either in lists or a library. Recommend books or pamphlets that have been meaningful to you.

6. Use the internet. Seekers use google. Create and maintain a website for your meeting or church with information about meeting times and upcoming events.

7. Be flexible. YAFs are often in transition. A young person may wish to volunteer, but not know how long she will be in a particular location. Provide a variety of volunteer opportunities and community activities that allow those whose time is limited to participate.

8. Give young Friends meaningful responsibility. Many Friends say that being on committees is one of the best ways to get involved in the community and meet others. Like anyone else, put YAFs on committees that draw on their strengths and interests.

9. Have more than one young Friend on a committee. This will help YAFs feel like they are more than a token presence on a committee and remind the other committee members of the diversity among young people.

10. Don't expect overnight change. Like all relationships, getting to know YAFs takes time. If you put in some effort, though, I think getting to know young people in the meeting will be easier than you expected.


  1. Great post. But of course you can substitute just about any mention of "YAF" with "new person" or "person you don't already know." Given the widespread appeal of Friends it's kind of sad that so many meetings are largely made up of the same small group of people year after year.

    This is a great primer on how to be friendly to your neighbors!

  2. Thanks, Martin. I wasn't thinking about it as a general guide for new people, but that fits in with talking to YAFs like you would talk to anyone else!

  3. A f/Friend had trouble posting on my site and sent me this comment personally. Here is the original comment and my response:

    With regards to # 4, I think suggesting that people offer financial support is a little excessive. Many elderly Friends have been gracious enough to put me up while I was seeking housing over the past three years and I am ever grateful and indebted to them; but I would not feel comfortable expecting anyone to give me (or anyone else) financial support (although it could be argued quite cogently that housing is, in essence, financial support). ~ Devin ~

    Hi Devin,

    Sorry you had trouble posting on my blog and thanks for the comment. In terms of financial support, I didn't mean that meetings should be giving YAFs full financial support or anything, I meant something more along the lines of financial aid. University Friends gives scholarships for events and education, as well as keeping a fund for member emergencies. I am very grateful to the meeting for giving me a scholarship to a program in Ben Lomond next week and I plan on asking for some help so I can go to yearly meeting next summer. Quaker conferences can get pretty expensive!



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