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Missing reality

Laura Walton

Laura Walton

We, as a church, are constantly planning, assessing, budgeting and searching. Many parishes study Natural Church Development, Missional Transformation, Fresh Expressions and more, all in an attempt to be a more relevant and outreaching community. Unfortunately, as we search, we often miss a reality that is right in front of us.

3 local teens have committed suicide in the last year in my small community. I watch the youth I work with and their friends battle the stigma of mental illness over and over again. My heart breaks for them and their families as they battle day to day issues that so many are unable to comprehend.

What are we, as a church, doing to help teens who are struggling? Mental illness is only one of the many ways that our youth are challenged: depression, anxiety, poor family life, poverty, abuse… the list goes on.

Every week I plan youth group nights: theme, simple message, food, games and fun. We build relationships and bridges in the hopes that somehow, we are connecting. I want these youth who may grow up and fall into a dark place to know I am there, that I care and that there is a community that will be their support. I don’t think we are doing enough to care for those who are our reality and who live just outside our realm of churchland.

We can preach about God and Jesus. We can attend church each Sunday to walk on our faith journey but if we don’t care for those who are not part of our church family, we are missing our calling. Sitting in our church buildings, running programs only for those who attend does not support or save at risk youth. But reaching out could. What are we doing for our LBGTQ youth? Our mentally ill youth? Our addicted youth? Our abused youth? What are we doing for those youth who have no resources for programming, like our aboriginal brothers and sisters in the far north? What are we doing for the youth who are couch surfing, or eating only one meal per day, because there is no money? What are we doing for youth living on the street?

Youth ministry cannot be fully realized if we are doing ministry only with those who fit in our neat world of “Anglican Church.” There are voices that need help: they need to be engaged and not ignored. We need to reach out and not simply plan weekly get-togethers that stay safely within church walls. We need to include, not exclude.

Who could we reach out to that needs love and support? Who are we missing? We are missing hidden and vulnerable youth. It’s easy to minister to those who show up to our programs, but what about the challenges of the ones who don’t? When do we make them beloved and care for?

Laura Walton

About Laura Walton

Laura Walton is part of the Youth Initiatives Team for the Anglican Church of Canada. She is the half time youth minister at All Saints', Collingwood and has a private counselling practice in the area as well. As the mom of 2 teenagers, a Preacher's Kid, and long time volunteer in the Diocese of Toronto Laura has worked in the field of youth and children's ministry on the ground floor level for many years. Laura has a love for sports, music and challenging the status quo which she brings to her work in youth and children's ministry.
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17 Responses to Missing reality

  1. Great post Laura Walton!

  2. Great post! The face of ministry is changing…it is our face out there….out of the church building!!

  3. Here is a Song put out by Petra years ago that dealt with this problem called For Annie
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9mZiVyXlGk

  4. Laura – When you write “we can preach about God and Jesus. We can attend church each Sunday to walk on our faith journey but if we don’t care for those who are not part of our church family, we are missing our calling,” my heart breaks.

    It breaks because it seems to me a complete waste of time to preach about a God revealed in Jesus Christ that does not demand that we get up out of our pews, and to live the kind of life we are called to lead.

    Lives that cares deeply for the good of creation.
    Lives that journey with one another through the pain, trauma and crises of existence.

    If we’re not doing these things, what in hell are we doing? If we’re not doing these things, what is it that we’ve missed about the gospel that Jesus came to preach and to embody?

    Sometimes I fear that the gospel has been domesticated and neutered by a church unwilling to both proclaim and act on this vision of God’s peace, God’s shalom coming more fully to these people, in particular places. Sometimes I weep that the church can be so self-absorbed that we shy away from entering into the murky, mucky, and real lives of the people around us.

    Which is why I love what you say here:

    “Youth ministry cannot be fully realized if we are doing ministry only with those who fit in our neat world of Anglican Church.”

    Keep preaching, sister. Keep preaching.

    • Laura Walton

      I love the way you think and write Andrew. The church can be so self-absorbed and we miss so many opportunities to walk with people. Thanks as always for your support and input. 🙂

  5. If we could only get them to attend, either youth night or church.

  6. Thank you for the comments everyone. Time to move outside the walls and be with people rather than expecting them to be in the building with us.

  7. As always Laura, you are amazing! Ditto!

  8. Well said! That’s my girl! Takes after her Mother!

  9. You are an earth angel Laura Walton!!! No one has a bigger heart than you. You go girl!

  10. Very well written and very true. Help everyone. Not just some.

  11. Makes a mother proud. Well written and from the heart.

  12. Well said! Like mother, like daughter! They make me proud!

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