Tuesday, January 31

Reaching Youth...suggestions?

Just spent a great two hours breaking bread with my good friend Melva and discussing our mutual challenges as Youth Sunday school leaders. She is also involved in other aspects of youth ministry in her church in Bedford. I just teach on Sunday and volunteer for the JIFF program (I've written a few times about that program on this blog).

We each attended a leadership workshop for the Lynchburg district of the United Methodist church last Saturday. In order to get as much out of our time as possible - we each took different classes and decided to get together this week to debrief/brainstorm. So tonight over a mediocre piece of fish and some delightful cheddar biscuits we shared our experiences.

My first class on Saturday was promoted as "Book, Bath, Table and Time - we will be following the book by the same name by Dr. Fred Eddie of Duke University. While Dr. Eddie's book approaches the 4 practices - Scripture Reading, Baptism, Holy Communion and the Liturgical Year - primarily from a youth ministry perspective, these practices are at the heart of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ at any age."

I was intrigued to hear from the two workshop leaders (who are active in youth ministry) how to interest youth in spiritual discipleship. And I did enjoy hearing about their experiences, especially the way that they use the lectionary and liturgical calendar with their youth. Dictionary.com defines lectionary as a book or list of lections for reading in a divine service. In the United Methodist church there are suggested readings for each week of the church year (liturgical year) and many pastors do preach according to that schedule. I understand it is planned in a 3 year cycle. The workshop leaders plan their weekly youth Bible study around those scriptures which helps prepare the youth for what is coming up on Sunday. I think that is a pretty good idea!

They also are encouraging their young people to be active participants in worship - volunteering to read the scripture and being active members of worship planning. I am pleased that is working for them. And the youth that I work with have also been lay readers - but I fear that if I asked them to teach, deliver the children's sermon or prepare a meditation on a passage...they would be unwilling. Am I selling them short?

Melva's workshop on "Christian Education with Generation Z" has motivated her to start planning a quarterly worship service just for children led by the youth of her church. She is excited about the potential for both the children AND the youth. We believe it will motivate the youth to do real planning and study - and give them a chance to introduce some new worship practices. So often the youth go to district or conference events and enjoy vibrant praise and worship services - they come back to their home churches and the fire/passion snuffs out. We have to find a way to fan the flames!!

Sometimes the new music and liturgy (stuff that we read/recite during worship service) will make us old folks uncomfortable. It won't be what we are used to. We might not know all the words. GOOD. Shake us up! God didn't invite us to a life of comfort. He didn't call us to recite creeds without feeling the words. We need to be less comfortable. If what we are doing now as a church was setting the world on fire - church would be standing room only. We need to try something different.

My afternoon class pretty much encouraged that. The leader urged those of us in youth leadership to let the youth dictate the direction of the programs. That made me uncomfortable. I just don't trust that they'll pick the ball up and run with it. (see my comment three paragraphs ago) I'm not just selling the youth short - I'm selling God short too. I'm going to have to step out of his way and be uncomfortable.

Does that mean I'm supposed to just hand the youth a stack of Bibles and commentaries and say "teach yourself"? Nope. But in order to make the learning relevant to their lives - I have to find ways to really involve the students in the process. I haven't got it all figured out yet...but I'm open to new ideas.

A wise friend shared with me a few weeks ago. He was talking about how the adults in the church often say things in meetings like "the youth/children are the future of the church". He said that is wrong. They are the church. The adults/elders are not the PAST of the church! They are the church too!! We need to get our act together and worship/learn/reach out as the WHOLE body.

I have a dream. That some day worship will involve everyone in the church. The youth and adults and children. The women. The men. The rich and poor. The liberals and the conservatives. I have a dream that we could all join together in praise. That we could listen and learn (not plan our meals for the next week). That we could all give generously of our time, talents, and treasure.

 Dream with me church!!

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