Posts Tagged ‘youth’

“Pastor, come quickly!” the youth urged as he was filling up the church van. They were returning from a youth event and were at a gas station in northern Indiana. “There’s a problem inside the store!”

The pastor upon entering found a man berating his church’s youth because they were speaking Spanish to one another. The man said that in America we speak English, not Spanish. The pastor immediately intervened and tried calming the man down. He explained that it’s common for his youth to speak in Spanish among themselves, and that they meant the man no disrespect.

The man asked him who he was, and the pastor explained that he was a United Methodist pastor returning from a trip with his church youth. Two women witnessing this exchange went up to the man and laid into him, defending the pastor and youth, saying this was America and people can speak whatever language they want. They went on to point to the van at the gas pump and say, “We’re all a part of the same church. See that cross and flame? That’s our church, The United Methodist Church.”

The pastor told me that his people are very anxious because of the present climate in the state and country. So, may all of us United Methodists be quick to stand with our Hispanic sisters and brothers, whether they’re members of our churches or not. And may we speak up and confront bigotry and racism even when minorities aren’t present. The Bible makes it very clear that we are to do this, and if we have the heart and mind of Christ we can’t help but do this. So let’s do it!

— Ed Fenstermacher

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UnknownAndy Stanley created quite a stir last week when he said in a sermon that people who prefer attending smaller churches are selfish.  He later acknowledged that such a blanket statement was inappropriate saying, “Heck, even I was offended by what I said! I apologize.”

His point, however, was that larger churches are more likely to offer solid children and youth programs, allowing the young people to connect with others their ages.  Thus, they’re less likely than young people attending smaller churches to turn their backs on church participation in the future.

Can it be, however, that smaller churches actually have advantages over larger churches when it comes to discipling young people?  Could it be that, although few in number, young people in smaller churches receive more attention and individual “loving on” by their church members?  When they’re absent, folk notice.  When they have a special accomplishment at school, church members celebrate.  When they sense a call to ministry, the whole church rises up to encourage and support them.

Certainly not all smaller churches treat their young people this way.  Nor do all larger churches fail to treat their young people in this way.  But there may truly be some significant advantages for a young person to grow up in a smaller church too.

What’s your experience been?

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director for Church Development

East Chicago Strong Tower-141227aWhen looking for a cross cultural mission opportunity, the teens of Delphi UMC discovered that they did not have to travel far in order to have a meaningful experience.

Though few realized that East Chicago is indeed a part of Indiana, this cityscape and culture proved to be much different from the Indiana they know. The group, led by Micah Hudson, was excited to enter Torre Fuerte, and was warmly welcomed by Pastors Esequiel and Suri Becerra along with many others from the congregation. On Sunday both groups enjoyed the holy moment of sharing in worship together. Though the music began in Spanish, the group from Delphi quickly realized they knew the tune and could sing along in the English version of the worship chorus. Then Pastor Esequiel was kind to lead a bilingual service and expressed his appreciation for the group’s presence. Following the service, the kindness of this Hispanic church plant extended as they provided an authentic lunch for the teens of Delphi.

After lunch the teens were ready to begin the work they had come to do. The Delphi teens wanted to invest in the teens of Torre Fuerte. They did this by raising money to purchase the materials for the drop ceiling in the youth chapel and by installing it themselves. This building experience turned out to be as foreign as the encounter itself, but with some great instruction and lots of ladders, the group was soon hammering, wiring and placing tiles until they looked back at the completed project.

In the meantime, there was another delicious meal shared together, many dodge ball games between the teens of both churches, and personal stories shared amongst all of these new friends. The Delphi UMC teens were blessed to find this meaningful cross cultural experience so close to home and will long remember the passion and kindness of Pastors Esequiel and Suri and the people of Torre Fuerte.

Submitted by Jen Hudson, member of Delphi UMC
Post script…
The teens had such an amazing time there.  I got to go along as well and it was such a privilege to talk to the pastors and get a sense of their heart and passion.  Our group has promised to return by spring and put in the floor for their youth chapel as well.  Another awesome thing that came out of it is that pastor Esequiel was so excited about what we were doing that he mentioned he would like for our two groups to partner for a mission trip together in the future.
It was really a blessing for all of us! — Jen

HirschI was recently with Alan Hirsch–a South African-born missiologist, author, and a leader in the missional church movement–talking about the future of the church when he made this provocative comment:  

Eighty percent of the youth in our churches go to college, or leave home, and drop out of the church within their first year.  Why?  Because we, the church, created an “aquarium” environment during their growing up years–sanitized places, free from risks and danger.  He pointed out that the movie, “Finding Nemo,” captures this beautifully.

Hirsch explained that we in the American culture, especially the middle and upper classes, have almost a fixation on safety and security, comfort and convenience, which is different from those living in most other cultures.  The church reflects this, which is ironic given the fact that most transformative experiences in the Bible occurred in those moments of instability, danger, and risk.  After all, God created out of chaos.

So, rather than disciple within an aquarium environment, how might we in the church foster discipleship, especially of our young people, out on the edges, out where the real action tends to be?  Perhaps one reason young people gravitate to short-term mission trips, which take them “outside the aquarium,” is because they innately long for such experiences.  Isn’t that what Jesus constantly did with his disciples?  He took them out of their comfortable, familiar positions–fishing, tax collecting, etc.–to those places on the edges–sending them two-by-two without their gear, traveling among Samaritans, occasionally even breaking the rules of the day.  Why?  Because he knew disciples are more likely made outside the “aquarium” than within it.

Think about it!  — Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development