This sermon was preached on October 14, 2018, by Jillian Ruch when she visited St Aidan’s in her capacity as the York-Scarborough Area Youth Ministry Coordinator.
Through the written word, and the spoken word, may we know your Living Word Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.
My name is Jillian Ruch and I am a youth ministry coordinator for this area. Thank you Rev. Lucy for asking me come today to speak to your congregation to share what I’m passionate about – Youth Ministry. I’m so excited to watch the slideshow of your amazing youth and their trip to the Yukon. Youth are simply amazing human beings.
Today also happens to be Stewardship Sunday which as we heard in Children’s focus is about responsibility. We have responsibilities in the church that extend not only to money but to how we use our resources.
This morning I will focus on that responsibility with a youth lens. I will speak about:
1) Youth in the wider context
2) Youth ministry in our diocese
3)Why this should matter here at St. Aidan’s
Youth in the wider context
The Youth in our churches, and I will define youth as Grade 6-Grade 12. After graduation, often churches will move the youth to the young adult section of our church. However, some special youth become youth leaders in their church, like Gemma here.
Youth are not often as people view them, separate in the church setting. Youth are a very important ministry. They are part of the congregation with a different developmental lens. This is why we separate youth in services at times, to give them space to ask questions.
We were at the diocesan youth retreat not even a month ago now and in the junior sessions, we were talking about scripture and one youth asked “Why is scripture important?”. This question took me off guard because as adults in a church setting, we all presume to know the answer to this question. But, could you imagine on a Sunday morning someone putting up their hand in the middle of a service and asking that question? How would people react? I know that on a Sunday morning I often have questions and as an adult I seek my answers through different avenues.
Youth ministry is that avenue for questions. We are more informal and give space for those types of questions to pop up. To linger and to be asked over and over again and by whomever wants to ask them. In my church we have a question box that the youth get to anonymously put questions in and we go through them on different Sundays.
Youth ministry has the same goal as adult ministry: To encourage, teach, and model how to be a follower of Jesus in today’s world. It is just done differently. As good stewards of God’s resources, including our finances and time, youth ministry is as important as any other ministry our church chooses to dip our toes into.
Youth ministry has also been called the research and development of the church. Youth are the up and coming adult members of the church. It is not that we cater to them in the congregations, but through youth ministry, you can have a sense of where the world is shifting, how it is shifting and things that as congregations we can maybe adapt to, so we stay fresh in our expression and worship.
One if the best parts about being Anglican is our long tradition and liturgy. Youth enjoy this as well. We don’t have to change our ways for the youth – it just has to be developmentally appropriate for them and in this manner, Jesus comes to live for them as well and their faith journeys can flourish.
Youth in the Diocese
There is a wider context outside of your church which is one of the reasons Rev. Lucy has asked me to come as there are so many wonderful things taking place in the Diocese of Toronto relating to youth ministry. I am lucky enough to sit on the Bishop’s Youth ministry committee. We are a dedicated group of about 12 people across the Diocese that come together and strategize as to how to build capacity for youth ministry. There are five coordinators and then volunteers.
We were lucky enough on the retreat last month to have 169 people join us. There were about 135 youth on this retreat and to watch them grow and ask questions of each other was such a privilege to be a part of.
The Our Faith Our Hope grants help us to make that retreat possible. This is another example of stewardship in practice.
The OFOH grants support the youth ministry apprenticeship program and in this program, young adults like Gemma can receive mentoring within their own church setting or start at another church and move a congregation that needs them. This program has far reaching tentacles – youth leaders meet other youth leaders and then they have youth groups come together.
This happened in the past year with some of the downtown churches. The leaders had met on the program, recognized that they could do some activities together and as such, they got together planned and three youth groups banded together for service initiatives.
Across this Diocese, churches just like yours fundraise, pray for and enjoy the youth in their own parishes. They hold tubing nights with preaching and worship, they hold youth leader trainings, celebrate confirmations together and the list is long.
What is really exciting is to watch churches that don’t have many or any youth, come together to try to figure out this different ministry. Just up the road on the Danforth, at St. Barnabas, they have hired a new youth leader who is excited to start and bring youth into the church community. There are churches all over this Diocese that embrace our youth and diversity within that population.
Youth in your context
Having youth in your church wanting to go to another part of the country on a service/learning trip and become more involved in their church family was amazing stewardship on your parts! You allowed them to take responsibility outside of themselves for the larger church and you helping them fundraise to be able to take this responsibility was equally as amazing. You took responsibility.
Amos told us this morning in Chapter 4:14to “Seek good and not evil so that you may live.” Hebrews tell us in verse 12. “The word of God is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” These two pieces of scripture help us to dig deeper into that sense of responsibility and how we choose to emulate Jesus here on earth.
In our Gospel reading of today, we heard about how it is difficult for the wealthy to enter heaven. We need to look into this reading as a challenge to us. It is as Hebrews tells us: the intentions of our hearts are at the core of our stewardship and our faith. We need to trust that God has got us in his hands and given us the responsibility to keep his Church growing and loving each other. The fundraising that you accomplished to allow your youth to go to the Yukon was incredible and your intentions were pure. You were helping your youth learn.
Our gospel reading helps us to remember that we are to give, we are to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.
Our youth are an extension of us and I thank you for all that you have done for them and ask that you continue to pray for them, care about them, love them and I guarantee that they will respond.