The Youth Ministry of Sea Island Presbyterian Church is at an interesting place. In many respects, the ministry is healthy and vital. There is a lot to celebrate. Since the beginning of September, we have welcomed over 50 youth to our campus for various youth activities. While that’s exciting, what is more exciting to me is that some of those youth do not attend our church – indeed, there are some who are not part of a church family. They are friends of the youth who do belong to this church. And I guess that’s another thing to celebrate: many of our youth are inviting and bringing their friends to church with them. Finally, we celebrate that this is a place where our youth feel safe: safe to be themselves, safe to bring their friends, and most importantly, safe to ask questions about God, faith, and the Bible. Every week over the last two months I have entertained at least one question from our youth that warms my heart, because in the very question alone I come to understand that these youth are working hard to engage and apply their faith in Jesus Christ with the way they live their everyday lives. In all of these celebrations, I pray for the humility to remember that these aren’t my victories, or the victories of the hard-working and dedicated volunteers who serve these youth – these are God’s victories, won through the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our endeavor to faithfully serve Jesus Christ. To God be the glory and praise for any achievement or accomplishment in youth, or any, ministry of this church.
Though many aspects of our youth ministry are cause for celebration, many others remind us of the challenges before us. I am well aware of our challenges and deficits, and how gargantuan they seem. It would be appropriate to compare those challenges, in their number and scope, as elephantine. Yet I, along with those who volunteer their time and talents in leading youth ministry, believe that we must do everything we can to address and correct those challenges to the best of our collective abilities. In other words, we are going to eat this elephant. While our challenges may seem overwhelming, we are going to address each challenge individually – we are going to eat this elephant one bite at a time.
But who is this “we” to which I refer? Who on earth wants to undertake all the mess and hassle of eating an elephant as big and leathery as this one? I believe I, for one, am called to be a part of this “we.” I love the youth of this church, and I love what God is doing through them, and I’m excited to be a witness to it. With fork and knife in hand, and bib tied around my neck, I say, “Bring on the challenges.” However, I cannot eat the whole elephant by myself, even one bite at a time. This truly is a team – a “we” – effort.
Joining me is our Youth Leadership Team and youth volunteers. These are folks who have been working all through the summer months in planning and preparation for youth ministry, and folks who continue to serve the youth of this church in a variety of ways. Some of them are parents of youth, but some of them are not. All of them are dedicated to the youth of our church, and serve them with joy and love in the name of Jesus Christ.
Yet all of us humbly acknowledge that we need help. Some of the help we need will come from inside the church, while some of the help will come from outside of our community. One of the key helpers has been and continues to be Youth Ministry Architects (YMA). The consultants who visited us earlier this month from YMA came equipped with years of wisdom and experience, and were able to listen to many people who shared their observations and hopes about our youth ministry. It is through the work of these consultants that we were able to better identify and understand the challenges that are ahead of us. (If you haven’t read their report already, I strongly encourage you to read it. You can access the report by clicking here.) The consultants also helped us understand the extent of the “we” we need to help us.
In the coming weeks, you will be introduced to two groups who will become part of the “we” that will help make short work of this elephant. The first group is called the Renovation Team. This team is in formation, and will be a small group of individuals who will coordinate and oversee the work of renovating our youth ministry. They will be working together for 18 months shepherding us through the timeline that the consultants established for our church. Through their skills in organization and management, this team will ensure that tasks are on track, tools are developed, and benchmarks are met. They will be diligent, they will be challenged, and they will need everyone’s prayers.
This leads me to the second group, the Prayer Team. This team will undergird the entire renovation process, and we can do nothing apart from this team. They will commit to praying for the Renovation Team, the staff, leaders, and volunteers within youth ministry, the youth of the church, and the families of those youth. We will not be able to accomplish any of our goals without their support. They are the scaffolding to our renovation project.
Finally, “we” can be broadened to encompass everyone in this church community. When it comes right down to it, all of us are stakeholders in the youth ministry, because we are all connected in the body of Christ. We made a commitment to support these youth when they were baptized, we embraced them as they joined our church through Confirmation, and we join them as fellow disciples as we walk the Jesus Way. Whether or not we have adolescent children, we have a stake in their spiritual welfare and upbringing. Each of us can do something. Each of us can take a bite of the elephant.
Begin by reading the report of the YMA consultants. Follow up by praying for the process and the people who will take a more active role in that process. Finally, ask God what role you are called to play in this season of renovation. Some will be called to pray, some will be called upon to undertake another task. No role is insignificant. No bite is too small. Bon appétit.