In May, I was able to attend an ecumenical event along with our Southeastern Jurisdictional Staff person (Rori Blakeney) called CYNKC – Children, Youth, and a New Kind of Christianity. Instead of a traditional event with one keynoter, this event featured up to 8 different speakers each day – covering a variety of topics in a series of 30 minute talks. This “TED” style format of multiple speakers sharing short talks allows for a great diversity of topic, opinion, and discussion – but can make the processing of the information received feel like drinking from a fire hose!
Following are observations and thoughts from several of the speakers, specifically relating to youth. More detailed versions of these speakers and other blog entries are available at the CYNKC’s website <http://children-youth.com>. While the speakers were not specifically United Methodist, many of their points and experiences relate to young populations of many denominations.
Bend Youth Collective
<http://www.facebook.com/BendYouthCollective> – The Bend Youth Collective is an excellent example of multi-church youth ministry. 3 different churches and faith traditions have come together to offer a universal ministry that will reach more youth in their area.
The leaders from the different churches shared the joy of witnessing a growth of purpose through sharing best practices with each other. Not only did the collective youth group benefit the fellowship of youth, but also the professional development of the leaders.
Many activities take care of themselves, but a handful of ministry offerings do present special challenges. Specifically communion and confirmation – the group is wrestling how to ask youth to have a deep connection and/or membership with their own home church even as they fully participate in a collective youth ministry.
Family Hospitality Project
Recognizing that young people in our ministries come from a wide variety of home situations is important! While the nuclear family certainly still exists, embracing young people who are raised in different family environments can benefit a youth group as a whole.
– 1.7 million (US) children have at least one parent in prison
– Over 2 million children being raised in LGBT families
– Other fears that youth carry to church include living in poverty, immigration status, health conditions.
– None of the above observations is easily seen, unless we get to know those who make up our groups and invite them into leadership.
* Inspiring intergenerational gatherings starts with addressing adults as adults – let’s level the system so we invite maturity from young people by modeling not taking over. In other words, young people have an amazing ability to rise up to meet the level of expectation and responsibility set for them!
– My definition of a professor is one who professes what they believe at the moment – in order to stimulate what the audience wants to believe themselves
– Faulkner – the past is never dead, in fact the past is never even past.” We are our stories.
– No single account of the past can ever describe it precisely.
– Truth is best understood as two opposites with a healthy tension.
– Can you become anti-reason (pro-intuition) without becoming literalistic?
– We live in an age of absolute lonliness – and technology enhances that. Try and balance that with intimacy.
– Specialization is a product of modernity: Medicine (eg) This may be true in church/ministry settings as well.
– Scriptures become for analysis – a book we question, not a book that questions us. Young people benefit from being questioned in addition to creating questions themselves.
* You can’t build a community – it’s a gift. One can help accept that gift by meeting these criteria:
– A common story that holds us together as a people.
– Common authority. Something pointed to as the direction setter.
– Parents should never be blamed for how their children turn out, they should only be blamed for how they themselves turned out – quite enough to bear!
– 3 words that changed in modernity: Faith, Character, & Consciousness
– Faith – In the age of reason faith has become the same as belief, propositional truth that you intellectually accept. Originally faith was regarded as perception – what is real to us. Creed (Credo) – I believe in not I believe that… I give my heart to a particular image of God. The opposite of faith is not doubt. If you have faith you will always have doubt. The opposite of faith is certainty.
– Character – How we are disposed to behave. sins are actions that estrange one from God. Sin is your dispositions to behave in certain ways.
– Consciousness – the awareness that is necessary in order for you to have an experience. Consciousness is shaped primarily by the arts. All religion was danced before it was believed. The church replaced ritual with order – forming groups like the Masons. Christians are made not born. Catechesis means echo…echoing the WORD. Making Christ-like people is a lifelong event, not a moment. Are you ‘a Christian’ vs ‘Are you Christian’ Catechesis: Formation, Education, Instruction/Training.
– We’re not going to lose young people because we haven’t entertained them. We’ll lose them because we haven’t trusted them with the gospel.
– Making a believer v making a disciple. Can you name what your ministry does?
– Willow Creek study release – We have a church membership that is ‘a mile long’ and ‘an inch deep’ in terms of knowledge & commitment.
– Gospel spreads best not through force but through fascination. Caught, not taught.
– How do you make a Christian faith that fascinates the world again?
– Can your youth articulate their beliefs and also say ‘That belief causes me to live this way in the world.’?
– Be honest with our contradictions. Young people are not looking for a perfect church, but an honest church…