Three things became evident to me at our fall retreat at Pilgrim Firs:
- In the process of drawing up a timeline with the youth, it was amazing to see how much we have done over the years—and espe- cially in the past year alone. A wonderful balance between worship, service, and fun.
- How good it was to stop and reflect on where we’ve been. It felt much the way a family does when reminiscing together. We share a history!
- That there is a hunger among our youth to do more reflecting, more being together, to balance out some of the planning and do- ing.
Mark Yaconelli is a researcher, retreat leader, and author of the groundbreaking book, Contemplative Youth Ministry. My youth ministry colleagues rave about him, so I’ve ordered his book to learn more. To give you a sense of why there is excitement, here is a little gem from the book:
“Contemplative youth ministry is an invitation to slow down and receive the young people in our lives. It’s a reminder that what youth need most are people who know how to be present to God and present to others... What would it mean for our own lives if we could become people who sought to be present to what God gives us in life, instead of hurriedly striving toward the next task or project?”
For all of the wonderful activities and experiences we’ve had, it has felt at times as though we’ve been ‘hurriedly striving toward the next task.’ How easy it is in our busy culture to fall into that habit! And yet, our youth bear the same level of anxiety and pressure many adults feel. Just like the rest of us, they need time to pause, reflect, and find rest for their weary souls.
Yaconelli’s approach would seem to offer a path forward on how to teach youth to “BE” with God, so that they can have their own experience and develop their own lasting, healing relationship with God and one another (Hint: It begins with the Youth Minister developing their own contemplative practice).
Which brings me to the 4th thing I learned at our retreat: our youth are feeling a bit anxious about all of the changes happening in our church community over the next couple of years. It occurs to me that contemplative ministry may be just the thing to ground us— all of us, really—amid all of these changes. As I learn, I hope to introduce some of Yaconelli’s ideas in what we do in youth group. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, please hold our youth in your prayers.