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,