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Formation for Youth Ministry :: The Learners

Photo by Flickr user diocal

Photo by Flickr user diocal

So who’s this project for? Who will it help? And why should we bother?

While there are a handful of trained, professional youth ministers throughout the Anglican Church of Canada, the majority of youth ministry leaders are volunteers without specialized training. Ours is a large church, across a broad expanse of geography, and we cannot expect that all of our leaders have gone to seminary (or that they even want to!).

And yet, we’re concerned for younger generations. We are concerned that they grow up in the church, but we have mixed motivations. Some of us want to preserve the institution, while others of us want to keep our kids out of trouble. Others yet want to encourage deep discipleship in the way of Jesus. And, quite frankly, some of us aren’t even sure why we should bother with youth ministry in the first place.

Where do you find yourself on this spectrum? (Why) do you think ministry amongst youth is important? 

Over the years, it has become increasingly apparent that your young people are less and less connected to the church. They are less and less literate in our practice. They are less and less familiar with the Christian story, much less its relevance to life in the 21st century.

In a blog I posted last year, I suggested that:

Sometimes, when we gather to talk about youth ministry, we focus on technique. What will keep young people interested? What will attract them to church? What will keep them there in the long run? We’re concerned for the future of the church, and rightly so.

But sometimes we’re just spinning our wheels. Sometimes we spend far more time trying to find the latest tricks and techniques than we do remembering what brings us together in the first place. Sometimes we forget God’s story, into which we have all been invited.

In her book “Almost Christian,” Princeton scholar Kenda Creasy Dean writes:

Since the religious and spiritual choices of teenagers echo, with astonishing clarity, the religious and spiritual choices of the adults who love them, lackadaisical faith is not young people’s issue, but ours.

The church’s “youth crisis” if that is indeed what we should call it is not something we can put squarely on the shoulders of our young people without accepting our own share of the blame. But rather than getting angry, or frustrated or sad, we need to know that there is something we can do.

We can go deeper into the story of God’s redeeming love. Rather than rewriting the stories of our faith to suit our needs, we need to dig more deeply into them, and what they might be saying to us today. We need to hear them in conversation with today’s culture, and to recognise that if there is good news to be had, such news is still good, today.

Whether you are a volunteer or paid staff; whether you are a concerned parishioner, a parent, grandparent, friend of a young person – this is for you. It’s for all of us. 

This project will help you to engage more deeply in the Christian story. It will help you to engage more deeply in the narrative of God’s grace revealed amongst us. And it will help you to take this same thing to your encounters with young people – whether as a teacher, mentor, friend, or acquaintance.

There is hope. Not in technique. Not in the tricks of the trade. But in the God of all things. The one we come to meet each and every week at the Eucharistic table, and who we encounter daily amongst all we meet.

About Andrew Stephens-Rennie

Andrew is an Anglican lay leader who loves pioneering responsive, contextual solutions to the challenge of being church in the 21st Century. He serves as an assistant to the rector for Evangelism and Christian Formation at Christ Church Cathedral Vancouver and is a founding member of the emerging St. Brigids community (www.stbrigid.ca).

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2 Responses to Formation for Youth Ministry :: The Learners

  1. I appreciate your eagerness to embrace the challenges of pursuing what may feel like a shrinking demographic. I am curious about what kind of networking and mentoring exists within your cirlces? I love to come alongside youth workers and help unleash their kingdom potential – let me know if i can help…

  2. Thanks for your comments, Jay. Much of our mentoring is informal, though we’re growing this through regular gatherings of youth leaders from our Anglican tribe across the country, as well as developing an online education curriculum.

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