Yes, We Can Do That

Yes, We Can Do That April 28, 2016

Tina ItsonPlease welcome Tina Itson as a regular PYM blogger. Tina is an ordained Deacon in the UMC who has served in youth ministry for about 17 years in contexts from the local church to non-profits and a few things in between. She has a passion for social justice, connecting with others through stories, discovering the ways that God is among us, and helping teenagers to find a place to belong and to matter. She also likes to ponder about youth ministry, progressive theology, & the church on her blog.

During a recent Sunday school class, our students were discussing the idea of righteousness as divine justice and what it means to be someone who hungers and thirsts for divine justice in our world. We talked about all of the places in our community and our society where God’s justice is needed, and what it means for us as people of faith to see justice as an important part of our faith.

One of the students looked at me and said “Can we start a group that meets to talk about different issues in the world and how we might be able to address them and change them and then we can call it ‘The Justice League’ and have nicknames and such??” I looked at her and said, “Yes…yes, we can do that.”

To me, this is youth ministry. So much of the youth ministry training and resources out there is about how we do ministry to our young people—creating safe spaces, creating places to belong, building fellowship, helping them develop their personal spiritual understandings. And while all of those things are important, we can’t forget that youth ministry is also about how we do ministry with young people.

Dori Baker, in her book Greenhouses of Hope: Congregations Growing Young Leaders Who Will Change the World, talks about the ways that we walk alongside our young people, connecting with them on their faith journeys, helping them to understand their faith and how it connects to their everyday life and the things that matter to them. To me, this kind of youth ministry develops the kind of student, the kind of Christian, that doesn’t see faith as something that only applies to their Sunday morning or Sunday/Wednesday night church experience. Instead, their faith becomes something that helps them to interpret all of their life experiences, and the thing that inspires them to make a difference in the world.

For me, youth ministry is about helping our students see the ways in which they can change the world—not because it is the right thing to do, but because it is what God calls us to do—and to see that the church can be the vehicle that helps them to do that. It is the church that can equip and empower them, that can give them experiences and opportunities to make a difference, and that can give them a platform for speaking up and reaching out. Unlike their schools or within the community, the church can be the place where students are allowed to take a stand, to try something new, to fail in a safe environment, and to continue to try again.

Our youth ministry team continually looks for ways for our students to get involved in mission, to connect across generations on topics that inspire them, and to encourage them to think about how their faith intersects with their daily lives and with the things that they are passionate about. And, most of all, when our youth discover something that they get excited about, we do our best to respond with a “Yes…yes, we can do that.”

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