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What is Youth Work in a Movement of Religious Renewal?


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What is Youth Work in a Movement of Religious Renewal?

Rev. Ann Burfeind

A few weeks ago I was called by an “Unknown Number,” which turned out to be a university student from a local Christian college. I was part of a survey to find out what we did in The Christian Community for Youth Ministry. I was asked a number of questions about our church youth programs. Many of the questions were very straightforward, “How much of your church budget is dedicated to the youth program?” “How many attend?” As I was being asked the questions I imagined the types of activities that we do with young people in conferences and camp. I tried to explain to the survey taker that we do not proselytize. They retorted, “Oh you mean, evangelize.” 

I was taken aback by the correction and said nothing, but have continued to consider what the person intended with the correction. 

What we are working on with the young people is to create experiences and conversations where they feel safe enough to share their authentic selves and to trust others enough to receive the same from others. We work on building deep, trusting relationships. This is religion. To reconnect with the world around others and us in it, is to connect the spirit in oneself to the spirit of the world. The young people love this space that is created. It is there for them during a time in their lives when very little is settled and sure. Friends come and go, the stress of school is huge and so many are wondering what they want to do with their lives. It is highly stressful and is it very tempting to try to escape this stress. Adults know this well. Society provides us with many tempting ways to escape, alcohol, drugs, screens, old habits of fear and self-doubt can also be escapes. The way though, however, is not to escape, but to grab someone’s hand, to look them in the eye and say, “Help! Do you understand what I am going through?”  

We all need to learn to trust others and ourselves around us to be able to reach out. This is what we do in our youth program. The ongoing question I live with is: "How do we do this as adults?" Certainly as we stand beside each other at communion in the Act of Consecration of Man we can feel each other with us as we reach and receive the healing medicine, as we receive peace. And as this healing and peace flows out into the world, which is in need.