We are living through the most extraordinary of Ordinary Times. We are tired. We are weary. And yet there is still much work to be done.
As of January of this year, I happily assumed the role of Youth Leader for our Central Bay District. Through that role and other volunteer opportunities with our district, I have made it my goal to personally speak with each church in our district. Many of these contacts were full of excitement, willing hearts and joy filled spirits. However, I was also met with excuses, dismissals, and even contempt. I’ve left messages, many never to be returned. But, by far the most troubling conversations were with churches who explained to me that they had no youth since COVID. That sentiment was stated in a variety of ways, but stated nonetheless and multiple times. In one city with a high school population of over 600 students, staff members from all three UM churches serving that area repeated the “We don’t have youth” sentiment to me.
This is a problem. A huge and overwhelming problem. I get it! At my church, Mt. Pleasant Frist, I have felt the extraordinary weight of maintaining our group of youth. We aren’t alone. Last July, Barna asked U.S. Protestant pastors to list the biggest challenges they are currently facing. While figuring out a hybrid church model (44%) and maintaining the church’s growth and momentum (46%) in a time of social distancing were widely selected responses, nearly half of the pastors (47%) agree that ministry to kids and youth is the largest challenge they are facing right now. This survey was conducted before the 2020-2021 school year had even begun.
This is an urgent call to action, and we must move NOW!
We are a connectional church! Let’s be connected! Let’s do this together. I’m asking each and every church in our district to reach out, over the next week, to a potential youth leader, and/or to youth in your communities. Go to the park, conduct a home visit, call families who have lost a connection to your church, and invite them to reconnect. I know many of you are already feeling overwhelmed, so once you make the contact, share the information with me, and I will work to build a relationship with your church and the district. This is the time to personally invite them back. I’ll continue to make contacts, plan local mission projects, and events for youth to come together throughout the district.
If you need a reason to reach out, please use our upcoming Bay Shore Family Camp service project, being held this coming weekend, June 11-12. We really need more hands for this project, and I have much room available. All students and leaders are welcome, and there is no cost. We will provide assistance with their Family Fun Days Event from 10-3 on Saturday, and Bay Shore is providing lodging and food. The rest of the time students and leaders will have access to all the amenities the campground has to offer. The district will even cover the cost of gas to get individuals and groups to Sebewaing. Use this link to get more information. I can’t do this alone, but I’m here to walk with you.
In Christ, Jennifer Lane Director of Children and Youth Ministry – Mt. Pleasant First UMC 989-600-8766 (cell) – 989-773-6934 (office) firstname.lastname@example.org