Lara Crutsinger-Perry has written for us before and is now part of our amazing team of regular bloggers. Lara is a Member in Discernment in the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Church of Christ and currently serves in Olympia, Washington. She lives with her wife, daughters, and a host of critters on their urban farm. She loves Netflix, tacos, and good flea markets.
EB White once said, “I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult.”
This is what youth ministry means to me. I believe lock-ins are biblical, free wi-fi is a gift from God, Ga-ga ball should be an Olympic sport, and texting is a spiritual discipline. And there is no denying that youth ministry can be a fun job but it’s about so much more than seeing how many marshmallows we can stuff in our mouths and still recite the Lord’s prayer.
Youth ministry is about making real the teachings of Jesus. It requires that I consistently strive to be in touch with the Divine so that through our ministries, youth might get a glimpse of what it would be like to walk and talk and eat pizza with Jesus.
Youth ministry allows us to walk with our youth through the most important developmental phase of their life. It takes us on mission trips and retreats, to birthday parties, and graduations. But it also takes us to cancer wards, juvenile detention centers, funerals, and social services agencies. And it takes us to the feet of Jesus and the throne of God.
Psalm 46:1—God is our refuge and strength
This is what youth ministry is to me. It is about creating sanctuary—safe places for our youth to come and rest from the pressures of school, the stress of family, the confusion of adolescence, and to be exactly who they are: amazing creations of God. It is a time to unplug, recharge, and ready themselves for week ahead.
Youth ministry is that unique place in the world where people who would otherwise not sit at the same lunch table hold hands in a circle and pray for each other. In youth ministry the least common denominator is the most important unifying characteristic. All are loved by God. All are welcome. All are gifts to the universe. All have a place. All are needed. No other place offers such radical inclusion in the adolescent world. They don’t have to perform. They don’t have to pretend. They don’t have to hide from the self they don’t like. In fact that’s who is invited to youth group. The raw, honest, humble self: who needs God and needs to be in community with others.
Isaiah 43:19—See, I am doing a new thing!
Youth ministry is a theology lab. The place where youth get to wonder, question, create, experiment, and act out their faith. Every day, God is doing something new in their lives and we get to share in the ah-ha moments of clarity and discovery. We get to see youth grow physically, emotionally, developmentally, and spiritually. And when the Apples to Apples game is put away and we sit exhausted on the front porch, I realize that I have just walked with Jesus, incarnated in the young people I serve and I am closer to understanding the mystery of God because of them.