Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus!
This past week, I was struck by the involvement of youth in the life of the St. James community. We may not have the flashy or big youth program in town, but something good is happening with and to our teenagers that ought to be recognized and celebrated. Instead of ministry TO youth in the classic "youth group" fashion - we are doing ministry WITH youth. At St. James, youth are integrated into the ministry that we do together (across ages) in the name of Jesus. Just last week, we had high school youth volunteer in the office as office support, sing solos during worship, provide audio-visual coverage and act as a wedding coordinator! Throughout the summer, they have participated in our Wednesday night band, weeded flower beds, worked as part of the Handymen of St. James, and engaged in Vacation Bible School as teachers and leaders.
It is a pattern that has been present at St. James for many years - our youth are engaged and work alongside adults to do ministry. These are leadership roles in which our youth are being affirmed by our community for their maturity, gifts, skills, and unique personalities. More important than something they can list on a college resume, these are opportunities for them to grow as children of God in the context of a community that genuinely cares for and loves them.
I am proud of the St. James community and the kind of ministry that we are doing with our youth. On a one-on-one basis, we are making a big difference in the lives of our teens. Our emphasis is not on attracting the masses. Instead, we are about making connections with individuals. This aligns with our vision to build and deepen relationships. Quality not quantity is dictating our efforts. We are living out our identity as a "relational church."
We will continue to offer group-based opportunities for youth to gather together. These remain important. SPARK - our weekly ministry for high school students after confirmation - will be led this year by Casey Fuerst. More information will be coming out soon about this exciting ministry which will start up again at the end of September. Registration is underway for Confirmation - a ministry for youth in middle school and 9th grade. In addition to the learning, there is a lot of time devoted to building friendships and service. In September, registration will occur for the National Youth Gathering. I am looking forward to filling Wanda (the church van) with youth for this gathering down in Houston. Given the flooding that is currently happening in Houston, I am sure that there will be many important service opportunities there next summer.
Youth ministry is alive and well in the St. James community. Yes; it looks different than it once was. Yes; it looks different than what most folks would imagine it to be. Yes: as a parent of two teens, I am grateful for the opportunities for my boys to grow in their faith, serve their neighbor, and make connections with adults that are serving as positive role models. I hope that you will join me in raising thanks for our incredible youth and for the ministry that we are doing with them.