Monday, September 24, 2012

What does "Youth and Family" mean?

And Family?
Over the past eight weeks, many people have told me how nice it is that I’m here. That it’s great that there will be someone for the youth here.
Now, I am very excited to work with the youth. I spent many summers at a Bible Camp before attending seminary, and on internship I discovered that the part of ministry that gave me the most energy was working with the youth there. The youth of Hope Lutheran are an amazing group of students I have had the privilege of getting to know through youth group and confirmation here at church. I am excited to work with them. However, my job description is a little broader than that.
I have been called to Hope Lutheran as the Associate Pastor focused on Youth and Family Ministry. Over the past few years, I’ve found that the term “Youth Pastor” is generally accepted and understood, but a "Youth and Family Minister" is a little more confusing.
Our concept of church is changing. It’s no longer just the time we gather for worship in a specific building, though that’s part of it. Church is the community of Christians living out faithful lives 24/7. Being church is something that permeates all of life—from home to work to worship—and it begins in the home.
From the time children can open their eyes, they are watching the world. They learn to talk, walk, and play from those immediately around them—their families. Parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, guardians, and grandparents are the first and most trusted teachers of young people. It is to these individuals that children, youth, and young adults will look to for guidance on what they should do and believe.
This is not a shirking of responsibility by any congregation or its employees and volunteers—it is simply reality. Faith begins in the home, and congregations are an extension of that. Pastors and volunteers cannot model faith or minister for you, but they can model and minister with you.
Does that mean that if you have no relatives in the area, this doesn’t apply to you? In no way. As it was said earlier, the church is an extension of family, and we are all part of that. Every person in the congregation has a connection to this community—and everyone in the community is connected to you as well.
That’s the “and family” part. It’s acknowledging the reality that everyone in a community is connected as church—that the adults teach, model faith, and learn from the youth just as the youth learn from, teach, and model faith to the adults. It’s acknowledging that youth are watching everyone to see how faith fits into life—not just the pastors. It’s working and ministering with one another to strengthen and deepen our collective faith. It’s realizing what a gift we have been given in our faith and community, and acting accordingly.
As a pastor called to be focused on youth and family ministry, my eye is on those programs and that philosophy. However, I can’t do this for you. It only works if I work with you—our shared efforts producing a greater result than either of us imagined. I am really excited to see what that looks like.

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