Why do we need a youth friendly mosque?
If we really believe that children are the future, then making sure that they’re brought up in the mosque is the best way to help them fully grow into their potential as good Muslims. It’s crucial that young Muslims find their mosques to be youth friendly, a place that they find welcoming and want to go to.
Get More Than A Clue
For a mosque to be youth-friendly, it must have a clear idea of what its youth want. Sunday school teachers are in a good position to be the eyes and ears for the masjid’s events coordinator. However, this doesn’t mean that the burden falls on them.
Community events, like community iftar, are an ideal time for the leaders of the mosque to engage with the youth and their parents. Elders in the community must not ignore young people, schmoozing with only their adult peers. Talk to young people! Find out what types of activities the youth are interested in, and what types of activities their parents would like to see them involved in at the mosque.
If you attend a very large masjid with a strong social media presence, consider sending out a survey to your community. Make it anonymous to get their honest answers.
Listen to Them
When asked about the best time he’s had at the mosque, Maguette (age 11; Islamic Center of Northeast Louisiana) said the following, “The best time I’ve ever had at the masjid is Jummuah prayer.”
Jummuah prayer is particularly appealing because of the increased community attendance. Not only do the youth get a chance to see their friends, but they get a chance to feel like a part of the larger community. They feel greatness. This stresses the importance of the entire community supporting youth events.
Whatever youth events are planned, they should also be enjoyable for other members of the community so elders come out in support of the youth. Accomplishing this could be as simple as having additional activities of interest for the older crowd or providing food.
When asked about what types of things she wishes to do with her friends that the mosque could provide, Adil (age 12, Bentonville Islamic Center) responded with “swim.”
While not every masjid may have the finances to have their own pool, this highlights the importance of community events that happen outside of the mosque. Rent pool space on different days for the youth to freely enjoy themselves. This is particularly important for young sisters who may otherwise not be able to enjoy swimming in more public spaces (many having attire restrictions that make staying covered difficult).
Think Beyond Friday
Mosques need to show that their doors are open beyond Jummuah prayer. The youth of today are busy! Involvement in school events, extracurricular activities, and (for youth who are a bit older) jobs, can take up much of their time. Offering activities during different days and times of the week will help to attract more youth and make them feel more connected to the mosque.
Additionally, not every activity has to be hands-on. When asked about one of his favorite things about the mosque, Bilal (age 7, Bentonville Islamic Center) said that he likes using its playground.
Installing a play area is a one-time expense that lasts for years. It is also something that children can regularly access and enjoy with their friends at the mosque.
The biggest hurdle to cross in trying to make a youth-friendly mosque is getting the community to fully understand the benefits of focusing on the youth. There are few nobler causes than investing in our youth, yet we consistently over look this group and their needs, going so far as trying to keep them away from mosques!
Time and money are of utmost importance, particularly for mosques that have a small budget and limited resources. However, there are ways to address these issues. First, never underestimate the power of fundraising. Second, if no one is available to fully commit their time to youth activities, consider dividing up the task. Ask members of the community to commit small amounts of time that work within their schedules. Then, rotate the schedule as necessary.
Creating a youth friendly mosque starts with the genuine desire to create a space that youth can grow to love and love to grow in. Yes, it’s an investment, but the rewards are great. When you show the youth that they’re an important part of the masjid, the masjid will be important to them.