I just finished sitting in on a meeting of USA Jurisdiction & Conference Leaders in UMC Youthwork sponsored by the South Eastern Jurisdiction. There are several significant things our 4,500+ members need to know about this group of Youthworkers.
- The primary people I consistently heard everybody talk about, think about, worry about, pray for, and plan for were people like YOU! Youthworkers on the front lines, most of whom never get paid to help shape the spiritual lives of Young People. Some Youthworkers get a part time salary and even fewer get a full time salary. But the needs of ALL Youthworkers were discussed.
- As a frontline Youthworker I always wondered what happened when the leaders who led me gathered together in the connexion. Well they spend their time supporting each other in their roles as Conference leaders. They pray for each other. They worship together. They study the Bible together. And then they share best practices and plan exactly how they can better support Youthworkers like you and me.
- These good people are over-worked, over-tasked, over-loaded and under-resourced. In a tight economy, budgets are cut multiple times, job descriptions are expanded, staff positions are eliminated. Stress and Pain and Grief become unwanted spiritual disciplines. But still, smiles and laughter, the Joy that comes from the God of Jesus Christ fills any space these good people occupy! I am not sure I have EVER met a group of people more deeply committed to their craft and to the people they serve.
- There is a great and brilliant future for Youthwork in the United Methodist Church! My suspicion is that Youthworkers will lead the way in showing what it means for grass-roots Youthwork to shape the agenda rather than a top-down approach. I can assure you these leaders get it. They have been where you are now and they think about your needs as they plan.
- An exciting component is the work of the Division of Ministries with Young People (GBOD) in helping to plant a resource leader in each Jurisdiction to help connect and support and sustain the work being done as we strengthen the Connexion. As staffing moves closer to the grass roots I think we will all find new ways to build sustainable ministry with Youth. And having met our new Jurisdictional folks I can assure you we will be blessed a hundred times over through their unique gifts and graces!
- Finally, our national leaders are modeling for us what we need to be doing in our own geographies and contexts. Connect! Do you meet with a group of Youthworkers Yearly? Monthly? Weekly? Do you pray together? Worship together? Read the Bible together? Do you share Joy? Share pain and frustrations? Do you share best practices? Do you hold each other accountable? How are you raising the bar through your own education and training? What have you read that others should read? What program has worked well for you to help shape the spiritual lives of Youth? Who can you share it with? What can others share with you?
The founding principle of The Youthworker Movement is that our very best resource is each other. It is not something we can legislate in a meeting. It is not something we can buy off the internet. It is simply each other. Bound together by the Holy Spirit. Growing. Leading. Following. Together.
Are YOU plugged into the power of Community? If you are, who can you invite to join you this week? If you are not, where can you join? Do you need help finding others? If so, let’s chat and get connected.
These Conference Youthworkers have already agreed to meet together yearly for prayer, Bible study, support, and the sharing of best practices. They will met again in October of 2011 hosted by the South Central Jurisdiction in the Kansas City area. Where on your calendar is there room for you to meet with other Youthworkers? Set the date now. Don’t wait!
Jesus, thank you so much for the Conference Youthworkers. Thank you for their leadership. Thank you for the model of community they set for us. Continue to give them strength and joy. Amen.
Charles W. Harrison