As you know, i work with young people in the local community through a little drop-in centre in the village. These are primarily young people who do not go to church. One of these lads, aged 16 headed off to the army on Sunday so we a had a bit of a farewell night for him last Thursday round at my house. About 25 young people showed up and half a dozen leaders and we had lots of desserts to go round. I had got my hands on a firepit for the back garden so we were able to light a fire and sit round it. I had got a a little farewell gift which i presented and said a few words about how he would be missed but i would be thinking and praying for him. What happened next was amazing because everyone in the circle shared a few words of encouragement for their friend who was leaving. It was a lovely moment to listen to all these nice things being said to this guy, i could tell he was really moved and just didn't know what to say!
Then last saturday myself and 9 other youth ministry leaders from church headed up to Donegal for an overnight retreat. This had been programmed in for a while as i felt i really wanted to get away and have some quality time with leaders before we launched into another academic year. The purpose of the retreat was to build relationships amongst the leaders, to listen to God's call for us and the ministry for the year ahead, to think about our roles and to engage in some basic planning for the year ahead.
Of course we also had lots of time to just chill out and on the Saturday evening we ventured down to the beach and lit a wee fire and sat round it for a good few hours sharing stories and laughing a lot! I'm excited about our team of leaders and feel privileged and blessed by every one of them. There is a strong group there who give sooooo much to the young people week in and week out and they are deeply committed to it and love it - what more could you want from a group of leaders!
Much of the content for this retreat came from a book i read recently called 'Contemplative Youth Ministry' by Mark Yaconelli. The book is excellent and one of the areas of teaching he focuses on is how we can be 'present' with young people and increase our effectiveness in our relationships with young people. He highlights 5 keys:
- Seeing - we need to see young people with the eyes of Jesus. Do young people feel noticed in our ministry?
- Hearing - young people remember when they feel genuinely listened to by someone else.
- Moved to Compassion - when we see young people with the eyes of Jesus and hear them with the ears of Jesus then we cannot be failed to be moved to compassion by the heart of Jesus.
- Acts of kindness - the compassion we feel will move us to small acts of kindness that can bring so much healing to hurting young people.
- Delight - we know we are genuinely called to youth ministry when we find ourselves being amazed by young people and therefore a sincere desire to spend time with them.
Tonight was the launch of our youth ministry programmes, Fusion and 20:20 for the academic year. We did this with a trip to Murlough Beach for a BBQ and, you guessed it, a bonfire! I booked a 57 seater bus last week and was confident we might have 50 young people there. By Wednesday we had 60 signed up and the final numbers for tonight including leaders was 80 people! A fantastic night had by all i believe. We had a bit of a 'moment' at the end of the evening around the fire, with everyone putting an arm round the person beside them as we prayed for the year ahead in Fusion and 20:20.
I'm excited for this year ahead! To see young people grow in faith and maturity is such a privilege and a gift that i am very thankful for!