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Coping with ‘Anxieties’ about Youth Ministry

Is “Getting Results” the Agenda?  Changing the Agenda with Contemplative Youth Ministries.


One of the things that constantly amazes me in youth ministry is how adults and some clergy in congregations seem afraid of youth’s spiritual experiences.  Spiritual encounters are either orchestrated (“this is what we’re going to do and this is what you will experience”) or they are mediated (“this is what you are supposed to think about/respond to this particular scripture passage”).

Or, we wonder how to find the perfect ‘program’ which will solve all adults’ anxieties about youth ministry and ‘getting youth into church’.

In this linked article, a youth minister in the Diocese of Melbourne talks about his encounter with the practice of Contemplative youth ministry – which is about letting the Holy Spirit move, without trying to give her a script to follow.

I really liked these words in particular in the article, and was amazed how much they resonate with our experience in the church in Canada.

“Youth Ministry is wrought with anxieties – from the Church, the parents and the youth. Here are some generalizations from my observations:

The Church wants results. They want to see the ‘future of the Church is assured’ because the young people are seen. They want the ‘bang for their buck’ from their Stipendiary Youth Ministers. They want ‘good young people’ who will do church the way the older people do it, without expectation of change. They want themselves replicated in a world that simply isn’t there anymore.

The parents (in the Church) want results. They want their children protected from bad people, bad things and bad media. They want their children to be ‘good’, without making decisions that will harm themselves or others. They don’t want their children to drink or smoke. They want their children to have good friends. They want their children to do the ‘right thing’.

The youth can smell these anxieties. They hear them explicitly or implicitly. They sense why they are pushed into youth programs and paraded to the church. They are anxious about the burdens they haven’t asked for. They have choices to make, and they can do so without the baggage from the Church.

But when a young person enters an environment that is open to them (without judgment from people), allows them to spend time in silence (unheard of in today’s world), asking them to deeply ponder God’s Word and His love for them without being told what they should hear (considered risky) and experiences the overwhelming grace and love of Christ, how can we argue?”

Read the full article here

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Judy Steers

About Judy Steers

Judy Steers is the Coordinator for Youth Initiatives for the Anglican Church of Canada. Since 1999, she has also been the program director of the “Ask & Imagine” youth theology and leadership program at Huron University College. Her ministry has included camping ministries, consulting and teaching, parish ministry and she is a trainer with Godly Play Canada. Whenever possible she engages her passions for singing, drumming, outdoor adventure, off-the-wall ideas and whimsical creativity into her life and ministry working with teens and young adults, including two of her own.
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