By Gennie Callard
There are many ways for a parish to view young adult ministry. In this article I am going to talk about viewing this ministry as an extended family and put forth some ideas to intentionally include young adults and others without family or without family near-by.
Inter-generational communities are shrinking in our society. As children and youth are spending more time in activities, adults are spending more time at work, and college students in studies. Church is one of the few places where people can interact with those who are both younger and older than you. We need to take advantage of this.
College students are pretty much cloistered - you eat, socialize and study with other students, most of whom are the same age as you. And young adults spend time working and hanging out with their friends of similar age. Whether it's recognized or not, many of young adults miss seeing and spending time with people who are parents, grandparents and even children.
So how can a church become an intentional extended family?
I often speak against seeing church as family and prefer the term community - an place where people gather by intent rather than obligation and where newcomers are invited, welcomed and included (which isn't the case in many families). But in this case I want to look at extended family - one filled with uncles, aunts, godparents, grandparents and children of all ages. A place where we welcome someone's new boyfriend and make sure that both granny and the new baby have a comfortable place to hangout. And this is something that many young adults miss as they move to a new town and away from their family of origin. The church can take note of this need, for a place where people feel welcomed into a home and made to feel comfortable, and find ways to meet it.
With the following kinds of activities, the church really needs to look at it as primarily an outreach activity as opposed to a church recruitment activity. We're doing it to fill a need and serve God's kingdom, not necessarily fill our pews.
Holidays are an anxious time for people without families, as holidays are so family-centric. This can be especially true in west Michigan where there aren't a large number of singles.
To meet the needs of people without local families you can hold a Thanksgiving dinner in your parish hall. Get a big turkey and ask people to bring a dish to pass if they can (and if not, make sure there is extra food and ask them bring themselves and a friend). Or an Easter Sunday brunch with ham and side dishes. With an extra invitation to the young adults in your parish (even those who've only been to church once), this can become a fun extended family tradition.
If you don't want a parish hall holiday meal, do what you can to make sure that everyone has a place at a table in someone's house. Ask people who are already hosting the holiday if they'd be able to set another place or two at their table. Then ask people what they're doing for the day. If they say they don't know make a note of it. Contact a host and ask if they have a space and if they'd invite this person.
Sunday night dinner
Many colleges in the area don't serve Sunday night dinner, from what I understand. Invite students to come to the church, and to bring a friend. And ask one of the church ladies or men to come in and help cook something simple like spaghetti.
If you invite one or two families each week to come and host and help supply the food and stay for the meal, it truly becomes an inter-generational community building activity.
Once you start getting consistent young adults, ask them if they'd like to make the meal - with you supplying the ingredients (ask for a shopping list a few days ahead and get everything they need). This is wonderful for students who are international, as they can share food from their home. Be sure to still invite the others from the congregation to join.
Adopt a young adult
This takes a little match-making, but students and young adults who move to the area can truly get the experience of an extended family if one family in the church takes them on. Things like holiday meals, inviting them for movie nights and remember birthdays are involved.
The families can be those with young children or empty-nesters or anything in between. I'd recommend staying away from single person house-holds, because that could be a little odd.
For other ideas, think about which times you gather as a family, or think back to when you were away from home for the first time and started to become homesick.
If you have students who have moved away from your community, remember them with a care package from your church. Include non-perishable food, fun books and a hometown newspaper - and personal notes from parishioners. This is a great way to stay connected and remind them that the church is still there.
By Gennie Callard
There are many ways for a parish to view young adult ministry. In this article I am going to talk about viewing this ministry as outreach and put forth some ideas to help your parish and your community meet the needs of this community.
Ministry with college students and young adults really needs to be seen as primarily an outreach activity as opposed to a church recruitment activity. We can't see this ministry as a way to fill our pews on Sunday morning, nor these people as future pledges. These are seeds that we plant and may never see into fruition. But they are people that we need to serve here and now - ministering both with and for.
So why do we do this ministry? We're doing it to fill a need and serve God's kingdom.
And what can we do? The first thing is to look at your community and assess the immediate needs - are young adults in your community getting enough to eat, getting a safe place to sleep, getting a place to do their laundry and take a shower? We must try not to put ourselves in their place and think "this is what I did when I was their age," because each person is different and has different needs along with different resources.
Here are some things that have been tried (and some that haven't). What can your parish do to reach out to people between the ages of 18 and 30 to make sure they are cared for?
I wrote some about including young adults at parish and family gatherings in a previous e-mail (click here to view).
If you don't have a washing machine at home, laundry can be incredibly expensive.
Have someone who's good with money (a CPA, money manager, etc.) available to meet with people and help them understand the world of finances - taxes, loans, credit cards
Nurses and Medical Help
Do you have a parish nurse? Set up times when he or she can be available to answer medical questions that young adults have.
We have a process for discernment set up for people interested in ordained ministry, but what about all other ministries and job? If you have people who are good active listeners, perhaps you can set up a discernment committee for young adults, to help them figure out their next step in life. Parker Palmer's A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life is a great resource for this (and an amazing book!)
What other skills do people in your parish have? And how can they help the next generation of adults?
by Gennie Callard
"If we week God's transformation for adolescents - and if we hope to convince them that Christianity is worth the trouble - the mainline church must reclaim passion, and specifically God's pass in Jesus Christ, as fundamental to our identity. This will require a more self-conscious theological awareness for youth ministry than we currently possess. It will also shift youth ministry's emphasis away from sociology, psychology, anthropology, educational theory - not to mention car washes and lock-ins - towards theology, and especially practical theology, that form of theological reflection concerned with Christian actions. This is not to say that youth ministry as practical theology never needs car washes or lock-ins, only that these youth activities - like all church activities - are harnessed for a larger purpose: to enlist young people in the mission of God." (Practicing Passion by Kenda Creasy Dean p.21)
Children and youth are passionate. This is evident when you see a child cry because his toy is taken away and see a teenager cry when she listens to her favorite song. They are filled to overflowing with emotions.
God is passionate. This is evident when God created a flood, Jesus broke the tables and the Holy Spirit appeared as flames. These weren't small non-emotional things - these were big and intended to cause a reaction.
When we insist our services be calm and quiet, filled with silent reverence, perhaps we are doing a disservice to our children and youth. Now, I'm not advocating for our service to be filled with rock music and stages, but I do think our churches need to become a little less boring. We need to worship with passion and show the children and youth in our midst what it means to be a Christian - to be an Episcopalian.
Many of our Episcopal church service are boring. When you ask kids why they don't want to go to church, that's what they say - it's boring. And, often, it is. But we, as adults, have learned that we have to put up with it - eat the vegetables to get the dessert (is the dessert coffee hour or heaven, not sure). But it doesn't have to be. Not all preachers can be holy rollers (thank you, Bishop Michael Curry), not all choirs can be angels from heaven (thank you Live Hymnal), but there are things we can do.
Celebrate the Eucharist with joy!
Act as if you're actually glad to be there, which hopefully you are.
Make sure the service is relevant to people of all ages!
Church is not only for adults - we are full members when we're baptized, and as long as we believe in baptizing children, we need to make sure that church is relevant for them too.
Let there be some noise!
And I don't mean only the squiring of children and the whispering of teenagers, I also mean leaving room for people to name their petitions aloud during the Prayers of the People and saying the prayers like you mean them.
Teach people the benefits and the troubles with being a Christian.
From the Society of Saint John the Evangelist (ssje.org)As it says in the above quote "Christianity is worth the trouble." With that we need to first teach them what the trouble is - that Christianity is difficult. Being a Christian means loving your neighbor (all of them - no matter what), it means practicing compassion (if someone else is in pain, I should be bothered by it), forgiveness (if someone does something wrong, I forgive them), it means community and reconciliation (do what I can to bring people into the community and reconnect with those I've had problems with).
Deans states that we "require a more self-conscious theological awareness for youth ministry." What is your theology, and how can you make sure the kids who attend your church know that?
At camp our theology is that we come together to form a Christian community. Each thing we do and decision we make is based around that theology - that foundation. And this past year, when Karmel, our Diocesan Communications person, came to interview the campers she asked them what was so special about camp - they said the community. Our "mission" is to create this community so that the kids knows what it feels like and can go into the world and create their own Christian communities, or find ones in which to participate.
What is the mission of your church? Why should people attend church? How are you showing the children and youth in your life that "Christianity is worth the trouble?"
By Gennie Callard
There are many ways for a parish to view young adult ministry. In this article I am going to talk about viewing this ministry as a change in your parish culture with the goal to become a more welcoming and including community.
To view ministry with Young Adults as a change in your parish culture is important to the college students and to our church in general, but it's also difficult as it asks the current members to do something different or perhaps give something up.
The question that we must to ask is, "Who is this church for?" I believe most people would say (and/or believe) that church is for the members. We have worship services when the members can make it. We have meetings when members are available. We offer the human services that members need. The rector is there to meet members' needs when they're sick, hurting, etc. In places where this is done well, the goal is for the members to go out and minister to the wider community. Yet in practice, that next step of going out doesn't always happen and most churches exist only to serve those who are already there.
Is the purpose of a church to serve it's members? If this is true how is it different from any other club or community organization? The church of today needs to be modeled on Jesus' ministry. He gathered the 12 disciples not solely to minister to them, but to enable them to go out and minister to everyone else. Jesus and the disciples continually invited new people and opened their gatherings to everyone - going to places where they gathered and feeding them when they were hungry.
The mission of our church is to serve as Christ served, to go out into the world and spread the good news, and to open our doors wide. Changing the culture to become "All age inclusive" and "Young adult friendly may include:
Chances are you have a college campus in your area, either near your parish or somewhat close by. With so many colleges (community colleges, tech school, traditional four year colleges and large universities) in our area, we have an opportunity to reach out to many people who are in a transitional time of their lives. How are you connecting with the students, staff and faculty?
Summer is a good time to start a relationship with the campus. How you do that will be different for each location, but here are some ideas: