February 16, 2016
Over the past year, St. Paul and Lutheran Church of the Newtons (LCN) have partnered together to host a joint youth group. This partnership started when we joined forces to travel together to the National Youth Gathering in Detroit MI this past summer. Heather (LCN youth group leader) and I met afterwards to debrief how the trip went and the pros and cons of doing it together. First off, we thought the trip was successful. Secondly, we thought the youth had done a lot of good work in terms of group building and that not only would those core group of students create a good base, but it was also an experience worthwhile of continuing. Having agreed on these outcomes of an initial partnership, Heather and I began planning gatherings and ideas for our times together. We’ve gathered about once a month since August for fellowship, learning, and small service activities. A particular highlight happened in September, when Heather and several LCN adults took the group to Hammo – the annual Synod youth retreat at Hammonasset State Park.
I believe youth group is a space in which youth can learn how to engage with and support each other during a particular time in life that is often filled with stressful demands and social pressures. It is also a space that is outside of the bubble of school and activities that allows time to process those experiences and how it relates to their faith. I think having the support of a community outside of one’s daily experience is invaluable, it’s right up there with the intergenerational relationships that are present in church communities. This community of youth is in no way a replacement of the church community that gathers for worship on Sunday mornings. Not only is it not a replacement, but it wouldn’t exist without the larger church community. One of the awesome things I experience is seeing how often the youth mimic what they see happening on Sunday mornings during coffee hour. In many ways they are trying on and testing out what it looks like to be an adult in the church, but in their own ways and in their own words.
This past weekend we gathered to watch the Super Bowl. Nothing more was planned other than fellowship and food around this (somewhat barbaric) massive national sporting event. Our teams weren’t even in the game! (Can you image how this might have gone last year?!). While the event was simple, I got to witness some really fabulous interactions among people who more than likely would not have become friends outside of this joint youth group setting. I think this is where the wonder and value of the community found among church comes into play. Here is a place that youth of all backgrounds can gather and learn about grace and community. Here is a group where people who have a variety of interests can come together and learn to delight in their differences. While not all the youth present on Sunday had a particular interest in the football game, they did all enjoy their time together.
Your support of this group of youth at St. Paul and LCN is incredibly valuable, not only for them as individuals but it is critical for their faith formation. I encourage you to ask them about their experience in this joint youth group and keep an eye out for the announcement of next gathering or event.
Your Sister in Faith,
When a family brings their child to the font to be baptized, the family promises to help the child grow in the Christian faith and life. These promises can be a daunting task for parents and sponsors. How are seeds of faith planted in a way that we can be confident that they will take root and flourish into the abiding faith that so many before us have experienced and depended upon? As the Director of Children Youth and Family Ministry, I would love to hand you a tried and true, fail-proof recipe; however, it is an uncomfortable truth that there are a number of things that feed (or starve) one’s faith and we don’t know most of them!
One thing I can confidently say is that your child has a really excellent resource readily available to them: You. This article discusses that an extensive sociological study of youth and religion has shown that there is nothing more important to your child’s faith formation than you – their parents. "No other conceivable causal influence ... comes remotely close to matching the influence of parents on the religious faith and practices of youth, … Parents just dominate." You are the best faith formation resource for your child.
For some of you, knowing this fact might make the baptismal promise even more daunting! You might wonder how does one fit in time for faith formation in the midst of all the other life activities that you are trying to juggle. The best part is you are already doing it! As you live out your faith you are showing your child what faith looks like and how to live it. When you pile them into the car and take them to church you make a statement that it is important. When you send them to Godly Play, Maile and Eric’s or Peter and Sarah’s Sunday School classes, you are saying that it has value. When you talk with them about your life and faith, you are demonstrating to your child the importance it. They learn it from you more than they learn it from me, Pastor Goodman or any of the vicars. As much as we love to connect with the kids and youth at St. Paul (and we really, really do!), we pale in comparison to the impact you have on your child’s faith.
One set of tools to help facilitate faithful conversations at home is Rich Melheim’s Faith5. This is a fairly simple set of five actions to do within your family as often as you can – even daily! T First is to check-in. Each person has the opportunity to give a synopsis of their day, their high point and their low point. Second is to read a passage in the Bible. Third is to talk about it. Fourth is to pray. Finally before your group breaks apart someone gives a blessing. An awesome part of this set of tools is that it can be utilized in any relationship setting. We have modeled our Confirmation and our Youth Group gatherings. I know couples who don’t have kids who practice this as it is a great tool not only for growing in faith together but also strengthening relationships.
I am excited about the opportunity to continue this conversation in more depth with you all and how Faith5 can be implemented into your home. Aurelio Ramirez and I will be facilitating these conversations which will take place in Room 7 from 9:35-10:15 on November 8, 15, and 22. There are several families at St. Paul who have already integrated Faith5 into their home, and we can learn from their experiences! Through tools such as this and the support of the community (we made baptismal promises to your children too!), I hope we are able to equip you to confidently plant and nurture the seeds of faith in your child.
Director of Children, Youth, and Family Ministries