My take on Youth Ministry

 My name is Sarah Beth & I’m a recovering Protestant.:O)

The Episcopal Church is my home & I give thanks to God that the Church found me when she did.  I am part of a warm, loving parish but  I am also a confirmed communicant in good standing in the Episcopal  Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast.{  We voted at Convention 2010 to remove ” protestant” from our official diocesan name. Alleluia.}

One of the GOOD things about coming to The Episcopal Church from mainline Protestantism is that I bring with me knowledge of what can make a good youth & children’s ministries work.  When I was a Presbyterian I was blessed with a wonderful  youth program  which was led by dedicated lay volunteers.  Even though I shed my Presbyterian identity : Many of these folks who were so formative in my teen years are still among my  close friends.

 Good youth ministry starts  starts with the youth who already attend a parish.  It has been my experience that youth need to feel as if their Church  meets them where they are at this point in their lives.

And no, I am NOT advocating  the sacrifice of our rich Anglo-Catholic Tradition & liturgy for ” relevance”. I am talking about building & planting healthy relationships among the adults , youth & children of any parish.  As a young person  attending Presbyterian youth group meetings: it was the relationships which kept me coming back. We had fun. Skating parties,  lock-ins, Youth Sundays{ at which I have preached!} helping withVacation Bible School, local mission trips, ect.  In short: my experience with my Youth Group at that small Presbyterian church  was  all about building  community. 

While we met weekly for Sunday school, what I remember the most about Youth Group was the  fellowship. I am naturally introverted & the few good friendships I built & sustained in middle & high school  started in my community of faith.

As Episcopalians, our liturgical life is central to building our community. Nothing warms my heart faster than seeing the youth of my parish  serve as acolytes . We even have one middle-schooler who is a faithful choir member & his energy sustains me on many a Wednesday evening rehearsal.

Asking young people to get involved in parish projects  can work. For instance: this year I , as captain of the parish Relay For Life team, made a point to ask  our middle & high school ers if they wanted to participate in Relay.  This has proven to be the * best* executive decision I have made thus far on behalf of Relay: those young people were fantastic!

Bottom line is: It has been my experience that  good youth & children’s’ ministries  start with the young people who already among us on Sundays.

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