All Saints Youth and Camp Renewal Vision

10.19.23 | by The Rev. Katie Gerber

    "Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.” Matt 21:43

    What does renewal look like for our All Saints Youth? It’s young people who produce the fruits of the kingdom. It’s equipping young people for discipleship. It’s making sure young people feel seen, are cared for, and are known in their communities of faith. It’s guiding young people to develop a personal relationship with Christ.

    In the passage above from Matthew, Jesus says he’s going to take the kingdom from those that aren’t producing the fruits of the kingdom and give it to those who produce the fruits. I want our young people to be those that the kingdom is given to. For them to know what those fruits are – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, generosity, and self-control – what they look like, and how to produce and share them. 

    To do this, our young people have to receive these gifts. They have to be surrounded by communities of faith that love, accept, and care for them. In a study from Fuller Youth Institute, 70% of young people that regularly attend church say they feel invisible. They describe that people pass them by without speaking to or even acknowledging them. Notice, these are young people who belong to a family of faith. There is a 5:1 recommendation with regards to adults to youth which will promote the integration, acceptance, and belonging for young people in our bodies of faith. No, it’s not five young people to every adult – just the opposite. Five adults to every (1) youth. I know what you’re thinking, “the teenagers in our church don’t want to be bothered by adults.” My friends studies show quite the opposite. Youth ministry of the past few decades had youth cast off to rooms and buildings away from everyone else; that was the cool thing to do. We are in a new season of youth ministry where when youth are integrated into the entire body of faith, they are able to experience truly being a part of the body. “Screenagers” is a cute (not really) descriptor for our young people. Imagine a culture where they put their screens down because they are invited into opportunities for genuine face to face relationships. If your community of faith were to adopt this 5:1 strategy or paradigm the message would be WE VALUE OUR YOUNG PEOPLE! 

    Prioritizing, valuing, and caring for our young people means we are intentionally looking out for when they are or might be struggling. Protecting our young people from the stress of this world. Not surprisingly studies show the evidence of suicide or suicidal thoughts or ideation among our young people continue to sky rocket and the even sadder fact, if you can imagine that, our very youngest (under 8) are counted in this group. As intentional communities of faith that prioritize our young people, we have to be committed to taking action when one of our members is suffering.

    All this is wrapped up in the paradigm of intentional relational youth ministry.

    Angela, a church Leader, was quoted in Growing Young.

    “Teenagers know they are important because they are involved in ministry. They are treated as full-fledged members of the church, not just kids to be entertained.” How do we equip our youth for discipleship and mission? Well, let’s first commit to ensuring they are steeped in scripture. Let’s commit to reading the bible with our youth, having bible studies, and conversations regarding both Old and New Testaments. The story is theirs. Let’s make sure they know it and learn their place in the story.

    In creating disciples, our young people need opportunities to extend outside themselves/ step outside their comfort zones to serve and minister to others. Let’s identify these opportunities and organize service projects. Above that, let’s ensure our young people know service is not about them feeling good, but because we are commissioned to serve in the kingdom.

    The pinnacle of this is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. My hope is that in this season of renewal we can make Him known to our young people. We can help them know what a personal relationship with Christ looks like and that He desires that more than they can fathom. Guiding our young people into this relationship is our calling and how we can be more confident that when they leave our communities, they have connections that will carry them into the next season of their lives.

    It is such an honor to get to serve the youth of our diocese. It’s a privilege to work alongside the diverse group of adults that work with our tweens and teenagers. The amount of passion, love, respect, and hope present in these leaders are truly gifts from the Holy Spirit. Please join us in this ministry.  Youth do not exist in a vacuum – they live in a world filled with stress, obstacles, and worries. If we want our young people to become people of faith and have a relationship with Jesus Christ that equips and sustains them to live in this world but not of this world, they need loving, caring, committed, genuine, dedicated adults, and I’m not speaking of their youth ministers or leaders. I’m speaking of the adults who surround them every Sunday and other times throughout the week. I encourage you; I challenge you to get to know the young people of your parish. Learn their names. Greet them every time you see them. Have conversations with them. Ask them how you can pray for them. Engage them in prayer, worship, and service. Yours in Christ,

    Deacon Katie