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Making Our Centers More Junior-Youth-Friendly

Allow children to recite poetry and Nauhas during programs.Besides being “busy”, there are a number of reasons why some of the older youth don’t really give the Islamic center too much significance. Perhaps they used to attend because their parents would bring them and they would enjoy socializing with their friends, but since they have become of age and are able to socialize with the same friends outside the center, they do just that. One of the main reasons for this is that when younger (between ages 5 to 15), many junior youth are unable to form any sort of “bond” with the center.

ReAllow children to recite poetry and Nauhas during programs.member those cute little children and younger youth who used to come to all the mosque programs? Now that they are a bit older, what happened to them? It is an unfortunate reality in our Islamic communities that as many of our children and pre-teens enter their teenage years, we hardly see those youthful faces at the center anymore. Busy with school, college, work, and their social lives, attending programs at the center sinks to the bottom of the list of priorities.

Besides being “busy”, there are a number of reasons why some of the older youth don’t really give the Islamic center too much significance. Perhaps they used to attend because their parents would bring them and they would enjoy socializing with their friends, but since they have become of age and are able to socialize with the same friends outside the center, they do just that. One of the main reasons for this is that when younger (between ages 5 to 15), many junior youth are unable to form any sort of “bond” with the center.

Below are a few tips for mosque management committees and youth groups to help transform our traditional Islamic centers into more child-friendly places of worship as well.

Activity Sheets

Ask the speaker beforehand the topic of the speech, and make a worksheet with ten questions for the children to answer. These can be multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blanks, and maybe a 2-3 sentence summary of the lecture. All participants receive a prize, and the ones with the best answers receive double prizes. Effectively, the kids will be learning to pay close attention to what the speaker is saying and eventually start enjoying such Islamic lectures.

Seek their Input

As older people, we tend to think we know what is best for everyone younger. Be that as it may, sometimes asking the kids what they would like to eat for dessert at the next Infallible’s birthday or which outdoor activities they would enjoy at the next Eid barbeque (e.g. the jumping castle and face painting are always popular) really makes them feel special and helps them form opinions about such details of center events. After acting upon their input, be sure to seek their feedback and satisfaction star ratings!

Allocate Them Tasks

Give the young ones a little paper with an announcement to read out in the microphone in front of a crowd. Ask them to give out prizes to younger kids and cut cakes or blow out the candles on big occasions. Let them hand out snacks or be in charge of candy distribution. Give them responsibilities, such as turning off the lights when closing the center, holding the Alam during the Majalis, or carrying the donation boxes around on busy nights. Give them enjoyable tasks that will make them feel important and that will become a part of their routine whenever visiting the centre; make them feel appreciated by giving them little trophies, gifts, and certificates for their services at big community events.

Give Them Opportunities

Rather than having the “expert” elders always recite the Du’as, Ziyarats, and religious poetry, make a roster and ask the junior youth to sign up. Get the resident scholar to take an active role in encouraging the youngsters and their parents to take part. Make it known that everyone who participates will automatically go in the draw to win some major prize (e.g. a $50 gift voucher and chocolates).

Display Their Artwork

Create a visual learning environment and make the younger youth feel important by using previous Islamic art competition entries and Madressa project posters (e.g. about Wudhu, the roots and branches of religion, the 99 names of Allah, etc.) to decorate at least one of the walls of the main hall. Use streamers to add a bit of color and ensure that the name of every child’s work is clearly displayed, so that their talent and efforts can be appreciated and acknowledged by the entire community.

Surprise Them

It is said that a gift means the most when it is unexpected. Surprise the children with random candy bags or religious gifts such as scarves, books, posters, pens, pendants, etc. Once they realize it is a completely random trend, they will try coming as much as possible to ensure they never miss out!

The Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) said, “The best of my community are those who spend away their youth in Allah’s obedience, wean themselves away from worldly pleasures, and are infatuated with the Hereafter. Surely their reward upon Allah is the highest levels of Paradise.” By paying attention to the junior youth of today who will be the older youth of tomorrow and then adults and parents of the next generation of believers soon after, we are only strengthening the foundations of our own Muslim communities. So, what are we waiting for? Let’s make our Islamic centers junior-youth-friendly!

And if you have any other ideas that have worked in your communities, feel free to share them below!

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