Tuesday, May 1, 2007

When Grace is the Chauffer: A Wesleyan Model of Youth Ministry

Ever wonder what it would be like if John Wesley was the Youth Minister at your Church?

Well a few years ago a few seasoned United Methodist Youth Ministers sat around a table in North Texas and asked that very question.

What would we do differently if we paid attention to Wesley's Way of following Jesus?

What would old John say about our models of Christian Discipleship?

How could we help stop the rapid turnover in Youth Ministers while preparing Churches for the spike in possible Students to reach with the Gospel in the early 21st century?

How would curriculum, programs, and structures have to change to emphasize the core of Wesley's theology of Grace?

How could we reach Students at every level of their spiritual journey and then equip them on their journey into full Discipleship?

What if we worried less about how good the t-shirts looked and worried more about praying with and for students?

How do young people form their Identities?

How does Conversion work?

Why is the Christian Community so important for faith formation?

What if we started with a theological foundation for Youth Ministry that didn't worry about the numbers, helped students spend time on the margins serving others, and empowered them to answer their vocational call to participate in the Reign of God here and now?

What should we teach about Discipleship, Mission, and Evangelism and what is the best way for students to learn?

What if we served food to the homeless in the downtown area more often, spent more time in small groups building houses in Mexico for families who currently live in cardboard homes, empowered students to read their Bibles more (and even carry them!), instead of planning better games, bigger concerts, and frequent trips to the waterpark?

Well, we seemed to ask more questions than we had answers for. So we spent a lot of time in fellowship, Holy conversation, study and reasearch. We came up with a framing image; an image of Grace in motion.

You see, we believe Youth Ministry should start with asking the question "What is God doing in the world today?" and we believe that the best theological concept for God's work is simply Grace. God's love working in and through all of creation. We think Grace is like a Chauffer because Grace simply comes and picks you up and takes you where you need to go. It is that simple. You can't buy a ticket. You can't earn the ride. You don't have to jump any hoops to participate. You don't have to know any secret handsakes or formulas.

So, many workshops and Power Point slides later, yeah, we're working on a book. But we would like to hear from you. What do you think? Have you been asking any questions about Youth Ministry?

How has Grace been at work in your ministry? How did you learn who you are? What is your conversion story? Where are you now on your journey? How do you participate in God's Reign here and now? What difference does being a Disciple make in your life and ministry?

Join the conversation. Please. We need you. Or it just won't be the FULL community of Jesus Christ God intends for us to participate in. I hope to hear from you soon.

Peace and Grace,
Charles W. Harrison
Executive Director
Center For Wesleayn Renewal
Copyright 2007
Reference Url: http://www.cfwr.org/

1 comment:

  1. Hi Charles,

    Thanks for your writing on this subject. This is something that I've been thinking about, too for the past while.

    Have you read Richard Heitzenrater's "John Welsey and the Child." in Marcia Bunge's "The Child in Christian Thought"?

    Catherine Stonehouse as also written a chapter, "Children in Wesleyan Thought" in "Children's Spirituality: Christian Perspectives, Research, and Applications."

    Finally, Susan Etheridge Willhauck has written her PhD Diss. on "John Wesley's View of Children: Foundations for Contemporary Christian Education" (Which I'm currently trying to track down).

    While these are more focused on children, I think that they give us a good sense of Wesley's views on childrens and youth work.

    I think it's vital as we consider ministry to adolescents that we ask the type of questions you are asking because, as CS Lewis says, "Humanity does not pass through phases as a train passes through stations: being alive, it has the privilege of always moving yet never leaving anything behind. Whatever we have been, in some sort we are still."

    Have a blessed day.

    Steve Bussey