People often ask what we learn in Seminary when it comes to Youth Ministry, and to be transparent, we have one required class in our 3 years of class instruction. Each student comes from a different background but what we all seem to have in common is a passion for working with youth at some point in our individual journeys. The youth in our church settings come up often in class discussions and we always speak into not just their capabilities, but their excitement to learn, to lead, and to be a part of the bigger conversations. We discuss our own educations at church as youths and draw from our experiences with what worked, what didn't, and how we can make a better experience for the youth in our futures. A question we ask each other is "How do we keep them engaged and excited?" Many of our answers have to do with the people who educate, the adults that are around them at church and at home, and how the education is presented. In my experience as a youth, I had parents who were involved in church, but the education itself was more akin to a three hour lecture every Wednesday evening and my teachers never seemed to exude passion for what they were teaching. In my particular denomination, we were not able to ask hard questions and feel "okay" having a little doubt about something that was written in the scriptures.
When I had the honor last year teaching the 8th grade confirmation class at my home congregation, I told them on day 1 to ask hard questions and a lot of them. If we learned something in that class that they disagreed with, speak up and discuss why. To my surprise, they took that instruction seriously! They asked hard questions, some that I didn't have the answer for, but they felt safe to ask the question. They often asked what I was learning in Seminary and then wanted to discuss it in class. They wanted to be there and learn.
This generation and future generations will be curious and have a ton of questions and that is something that I have learned to embrace and celebrate. They will have doubts and they will disagree with things and that too, is okay. They are forming their relationship with God and leaning into their faith and curiosities! As a former young person who was often told that questioning was sinful, creating a safe place for those questions and doubts is vital in faith formation. That means they are engaging, they have excitement, and they want to learn more.
Although we don't have youth ministry as a yearly class in Seminary, know that the future pastors and deacons of the ELCA are definitely having conversations about the youth! Many of us are gaining experience as we learn and growing with the youth in mind. We are excited to get out there and really walk with the youth on their faith journeys, together, and equally excited to get a little creative with youth programs. I feel incredibly blessed and fortunate to have the experience at Christ the King and get to know the curious minds that will be the future of the church.
Pax and Blessings,