By Luke Johnson | March 3, 2014
I am a liturgically-rehabilitated Evangelical nomad who has found a permanent home in the Anglican Church. I grew up as a church kid, involved in scores of ministries, and a youth group faithful. When I was in college, I volunteered for almost 4 years as a youth leader in a low-church Lutheran congregation, and spent my summers as a Bible camp cabin leader.
With all of this behind me, I don’t think I could’ve imagined that one day I would say, “The Anglican parish is the most enriching and exciting place to conduct youth ministry.”
Since December 2012 we’ve worked to cultivate a liturgically-rooted, scripture-centered community of Christian young people. The goal of the ministry isn’t to “have fun,” or even to be explicitly evangelistic. The goal is to foster mature faith in the youth of the parish, and to equip them to become mature participants in the life and ministry of the church (big ‘C’ and little ‘c’).
It’s strictly not about numbers. It’s about relationships. It’s about growth in character, in patience, in love, in faith. It’s about taking God seriously (in reading scripture, encountering God in prayer, and learning to pray), taking each other seriously (listening and building into one another), and taking our tradition seriously (which means taking advantage of the depth and breadth of the Anglican tradition — e.g., ordering our time together by the liturgical seasons, learning from the lives of the saints, celebrating feast days and baptism/confirmation anniversaries, visits from the Bishop, reflecting on our baptismal covenant and creeds, praying compline, and thinking about what it means to live cross-shaped as teenage Anglicans).
The fruit of all of this is a closely-knit group of grade 6-12ers (and leaders) who know each other, enjoy being together, and who have a place to belong in church life. Just recently, at our “Freezing Fun” winter social at the end of February, a young lady in grade 10 who joined us for the first time said, “This group is like a crazy family.” I love that. A family is where you belong, where you have history. A family is full of weird people who make you mad and make you laugh. A family is a place to go when other parts of your life are falling to pieces, or a place to let loose and celebrate when things are good.
Youth group doesn't have to be about games — it turns out that it's better when it's not. It can be about the lived-out joy we have in belonging to Christ, and the common life we share as his Church.