As we enter a new fall season, are we preparing for ministry or programs?
The temptation this time of the year is to create a full calendar of programs and activities for our youth. Lock-ins? Check. Game night? Check. Bible study? Check. Christian Concert? Check. Parents love these calendars because they can see at a glance every activity for the next nine months and know exactly how their family calendar will (or will not) line up with the youth group calendar.
But in our rush to show how organized we are, have we substituted preparing for ministry with simply calendaring programs and activities? This was the question our youth ministry team recently asked. So, before we put a single lock-in or game night on the calendar, we gathered this past weekend with our youth to simply focus on the questions: Who are you? Who are we? What is the purpose of our ministry together?
Step One: We began by inviting the youth to reflect on their own identity as part of our group. We asked them share about their interests, their talents, their families, their friends, their learning styles, and so on. Learning more about one another invited us to see the diversity of personalities and gifts within our ministry.
Step Two: The youth divided into groups and were asked to think about what sort of ministry we wanted to be and who would be a part of it? Who do we want to include? Who do we hope would feel welcome in our fellowship? The youth then wrote down their ideas on lots of post-it notes. We then brought the groups back together and compared answers. Interestingly, one group had written down categories of people while the other had written down qualities of people. As they went through their piles of post-it notes, they found many similarities and many cases where the category from one group matched the quality from the other group (e.g. musician and song-writing ability). The teams became excited as they realized the diversity and agreement we had on just how welcoming we hoped our ministry might be. Some of their responses on the post-its included: athletes, artists, intellectuals, doubters, believers, GLBT, rural, urban, visually impaired, differently-abled, nerds, musicians, peacemaker, republican, democrat, actor, studious, agnostic, atheist, nurturers, young, and old. We collected up all the post-its and some of the youth then worked to creatively attached them all to a poster board for use later in worship.
Step Four: Next, we invited everyone to scatter about the building or outside the building and find one object that in some way represented what our ministry means to them or what they hoped our ministry might be able to be as we moved into a new school year together. After ten minutes, we regrouped and shared. Here were some of the objects and explanations from the group:
- Chair - Our ministry provides support for the members and reminds us that God is always there to hold us up.
- Cup of water - A reminder that our faith is a vital part of our life.
- Colored pencils - Symbolizing the gift of our diversity and how all of us have something to contribute.
- Clothes hanger - Our ministry supports us as we try to live out our faith each day.
- Track shoe - A reminder that we journey together in faith, keeping each other on track (and the spikes symbolize how we also are called to help each other from losing our footing).
- Coffee mug - Our group as a place that is warm, comforting and safe (and the cup had a lipstick stain on it -- a reminder that we are invited to come with all our imperfections).
- Cross necklace - An outward sign of who we are, reminding us that it is important that we work together to become outward signs of Christ.
- Light switch - A reminder that we are to be light, and to help illuminate and teach each other.