Beyond the Lock-in: Real Ministries Require Real Conversations
July 28, 2016—It’s summer time and this means that most churches are either on break or working overtime to keep their children, youth and young adults engaged. My church is of the latter type. We work hard to offer more than the usual programming beyond the Graduate Recognition service in May and the Back-to-School service in August. We seek to have weekly discipleship encounters for the purposes of consistency and faith development.
However, as a Children’s, Youth & Young Adult Pastor of an urban context, I have learned that weekly bible study, two Sundays a month separate worship and monthly fellowship events are not enough to sustain the attention and develop the faith of my young people.
What they are looking for is beyond a lock-in. They want answers! They want safe and sacred spaces to express how they feel about what’s going on in the world around them.
They want to know that the church is not so aloof that it does not see itself as a part of the larger narrative of the nation, even the world. What do I mean?
- On June 12th a 29 year-old gunman killed 49 people and wounded 53 others inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
- On July 5th, Alton Sterling, a 37 year-old black man, was shot several times at point blank range while pinned to the ground by two white officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
- On July 6th, Philando Castile, a young black man, was fatally shot by a white police officer in Falcon Heights, a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota.
- On July 7th, Micah Xavier Johnson ambushed and fired upon a group of police officers in Dallas, Texas killing five officers and injuring nine others, including two bystanders.
- On the evening of July 14th, 84 people were killed and 303 injured when a 19-tonne cargo truck was deliberately driven into crowds celebrating Bastille Day on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France.
- During the night of July 15th a faction of the Turkish military tried and failed to stage a coup to overthrow Erdoğan. At least 265 people were killed in the violence and another 1,440 were wounded.
- On July 17th, a Missouri man ambushed and killed three law officers and wounded three others in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
- On July 18th, Charles Kinsey, a behavior therapist, was shot three times while lying on the ground holding both hands in the air, next to his 23 year-old white patient with autism. When he asked he officer why he shot him the officer said, “I don’t know.”
- On July 22nd at least one gunman opened fire near a shopping mall in Munich just before 6 p.m. killing eight people and wounding a number of others; it has been reported that he was aiming to shoot children.
It’s been a hell of a summer for sure, sizzling hot in so many ways. And the question of the day is, “How do we effectively minister to today’s youth in light of all that is going on?”
There is no way you can reach the children, youth and young adults of today without addressing the ills of society head on. If your summer youth programming does not touch upon matters of violence, death, hatred, racism, sexism, hetero-sexism, prejudice, discrimination and the like, then your programming is bound to fail.
One cannot carry out the mandate of Christ by avoiding the truths that surround us.
We cannot keep our children in the dark or in safety bubbles.
Real ministries require real conversations.
We are not expected to have all of the answers but we do need to make space for our youth to know that the church cares and is listening to their hearts. We cannot just pray it away or hope the pastor preaches on a national crises or global matter. We must directly address the webs of oppression that are at work to engender fear within us and our youth.
Here’s what I tell my kids: racism, hate and violence are not new phenomenons; these are age old issues. Just take a look at the issues that the children of Israel experienced. We cannot solve these issues but we can live Godly in the midst of them.
It is our job not to lose hope but to love no matter what. We are to stay prayed up and not live in fear. I know, easier said than done. So we, seniors, adults, young adults, youth and children will practice together.
What has your summer youth programming looked like thus far? I challenge you to have these real difficult conversations with your children, youth and young adults before they return to school. Remember real ministries require real conversations.
Dominique A. Robinson is an ordained Elder in the AME Zion Church. Currently, she is Children’s, Youth & Young Adult Pastor at Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta. She was previously on staff at New Life Presbyterian Church and Columbia Theological Seminary. She was the 2015 winner of The Beatitudes Society’s Brave Preacher Award.
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