Young people need to have a wide variety of opportunities to use their gifts and to express their faith through meaningful roles. They will develop a spirit of commitment within a community only through actual involvement in the many ways the Church exercises and carries out its mission; especially crucial is the interaction with those who have made a lifetime commitment to serving the Church. Young people need to know that such service is both rewarding and fulfilling.
If we pigeon-hole young people’s involvement in the parish to the definite place or the set aside time of youth group or youth worship, we deny the parish community of the valuable emotions and ideas they carry with them. We deny our youth the chance to see that they are an important part of the Church, and that their faith and spiritual journey is our priority, and our joy to witness. We must foster within them a spirit of commitment through making meaningful roles available to young people.
Tim Schmoyer poses the question of the role of the youth minister this way: are we as youth ministry leaders to be the center gear in the youth ministry who is responsible to keep the ministry’s other gears turning, OR are we to help the Church fulfill its calling to minister to teenagers? That is a long question, with a very direct answer. Schmoyer claims that you can’t say both because if you understand the implications to their fullest extent, they really are very much opposing ideas. At some point sooner rather than later, we need to set aside our own sense of cool. When speaking of young people in the parish, we will have to begin to make the Johnny Castle Dirty Dancing declarative of “Nobody puts Baby in the corner.” That nobody that Johnny speaks of does includes errr…. us!
Here is the concern: In an interview for Leadership, Kara Powell of Fuller Theological Seminary suggests that “[The church] realized in the 1940s that we were not offering teens enough focused attention. So what did we do? We started offering them too much. All of a sudden churches had adult pastors and youth pastors, adult worship teams and youth worship teams, adult mission trips and youth mission trips. And there’s a place for that. But we’ve ended up segregating–and I use that word intentionally–our kids from the rest of the church. Now we tend to think that we can outsource the care of our kids to designate experts, the youth and children’s workers.”
Our kids deserve better than to have ministry with them segregated outside the flow of Church life, and you have to wonder… do we do youth ministry that way to protect the parish from the wacky, messy, stinky kids, or to protect ourselves from the implications of dealing with the stinky, messy, wacky parish community? Let’s leave the work of protecting everyone’s sensibilities about different generations in the hands of the Spirit – hands that are more highly qualified than any of us could be at our best.
For Discussion: In what ways can we begin to get young people out of the corner and onto the dance floor of our Church? Please comment below with your critique clarifications, and responses. <image source>
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