The community provides the potential for nurturing human beings into the fullness of their humanity. We believe we have a responsibility to innovate, sponsor, and evaluate new forms of community that will encourage development of the fullest potential in individuals. Primary for us is the gospel understanding that all persons are important—because they are human beings created by God and loved through and by Jesus Christ and not because they have merited significance. We therefore support social climates in which human communities are maintained and strengthened for the sake of all persons and their growth. We also encourage all individuals to be sensitive to others by using appropriate language when referring to all persons. Language of a derogatory nature (with regard to race, nationality, ethnic background, gender, sexuality, and physical differences) does not reflect value for one another and contradicts the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Community is such an important concept for us to teach our teenagers in our youth ministries in the 21st century. We have entered fully (probably several years ago) into the information age where you can create an individual identity online, and it doesn’t even have to be a true one; it can be a false identity. I am sure there are teenagers in your ministry you can think of that are tempted to do this because they feel insecure in their self-image.
Community is such an important concept for them to embrace, and in many cases it is the nurturing that is so needed for many of our teenagers in our ministries around the nation and the world. As is our Wesleyan practice let us look at scripture, which is primary, and see where we can find the truth of a nurturing community. We don’t have to look far to find the first instance of community.
Let’s look in the book of Genesis in chapter 1, starting in verse 26.
Then God said, “Let us make humanity in our image to resemble us so that they may take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and all the crawling things on earth.”
God created humanity in God’s own image,
in the divine image God created them,[a] male and female God created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and master it. Take charge of the fish of the sea, the birds in the sky, and everything crawling on the ground.” Then God said, “I now give to you all the plants on the earth that yield seeds and all the trees whose fruit produces its seeds within it. These will be your food. To all wildlife, to all the birds in the sky, and to everything crawling on the ground—to everything that breathes—I give all the green grasses for food.” And that’s what happened.
From the very beginning even before God gave Adam the command to take care of the earth, God speaks about the first community. God’s words during this part of creation are different than before. He says, “Let us make humanity in our image to resemble us.” Other times during creation God creates, or asks a segment of creation to create, but this time he is intentionally consulting with others on humanity. I believe that this is our understanding of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit together in one spirit creating humanity. This is a community from the beginning sending us a message, that message being God himself exists in a community of three persons when creating us and so community is especially important to us in our lives.
We were made to be communal beings. To have families, friends, prayer partners, small groups, and even church congregations. We need these parts of our community for our growth because we all bring different values and gifts to this community. No one person is better than the other, but we can make ourselves better by learning, growing, and living in the midst of other persons in community.
The Methodist Movement was a communal movement with societies (small groups) that we led by John and Charles Wesley and many others along the way, and it was through this movement that we have come to where we are today.
So, how can we live and teach this to our teenagers and volunteers in our ministries?
The simple existence of a youth ministry in the presence of the community is living and learning together the importance of community, but the real question remains: is your youth ministry a nurturing community? So, what does it mean to be a nurturing community? A nurturing community is a community that is Wesleyan in definition and is lead mostly by small groups for accountability and discipleship, service to others, and worship of our Lord. For some people this doesn’t sound fun or defined as what a youth ministry should be. Where are the lock ins? Whirlyball? Broomball? GAGA BALL!?
What was defined as societies in the time of ministry of John and Charles Wesley is not what we call youth ministry today; rather, communities evolve through the years to the practices and passions of the members of those communities. You don’t do the same thing every year, you are constantly evolving as a youth ministry – if you are not evolving, you are stagnating.
As youthworkers it is our jobs to set the tone for what is expected for the community – and it can’t all be bible study, can’t all be fun events, can’t all be mission trips and worship. There has to be a balance. The following is what I can speak to; what the youth ministry at FUMC Cleburne is looking to do this year as a community of faith.
Covenant Groups – Accountability & Discipleship
Basketball & Bible – a relaxed gathering of guys playing basketball and sitting down to discuss scripture, also a time to check in with each other, pray for each other
Dr Pepper & Brownies – a relaxed gathering of high school girls where they bake brownies and of course drink Dr. Pepper, and also a time to check in with each other, pray for each other and discuss scripture.
Craft Night – A night just for middle school girls to make a craft together. Also a time to check in with each other, pray for each other, and discuss
Group Dynamix Lock In – This is a great discipleship opportunity for students to learn and grow together. Group Dynamix is a company that does group events, but also Youth Lock-Ins that involve group building games and activities all night. Always a hit!
Whirlyball/Broomball/Anything involving a Ball – don’t forget how affirming this type of community event can be. There is laughter shared and all kinds of awesome fellowship going on. Not everybody has to play, but most will because these events are so much fun.
Service to Others
VMA’s – Volunteer in Ministry Awards Night – In lieu of a Christmas party for youth this year we are doing a thank you night for the Volunteers in Youth Ministry this year.
Labor for Your Neighbor – This year our church is partnering with 6Stones, a community organization that seeks to do service for others with their CPR program, which stands for Community Powered Revitalization. They bring in churches, schools, and organizations all over the community together to revitalize Cleburne. It really is a powerful expression of a nurturing community.
Summer Mission Trips – Week-long mission trip experiences for high school & middle school aged teenagers and adults throughout the church to extend Christ love and his caring through doing hard work for others.
Wednesday Night Live Worship – Every Wednesday night of the year we open up our youth activities building here on campus to worship and praise God. We also provide some hang time and fellowship, as well as a dinner for the students. This year several students are getting more and more involved in this night in leading worship, giving the message, and praying for each other in all they experience in life.
Summer Mission Trip Worship – With all the hard work that goes into the days of summer mission trips the worship experiences are by far the one that students love the most because the worship seems more real and genuine because of what they are actively doing. This teaches them that they need to be a community of faith and good work.
Sunday Morning Worship – (Yes. I know what your youth are saying. Get up on a Sunday Morning!?) We really encourage our teenagers to know that being a part of a community is knowing that it is not about you and your schedule. It is about being a nurturing component for the community and being not just a part of the youth group community, but the larger local church community as well.
All of these are means to craft a culture, and by that we clearly articulate what is expected from being in the Kingdom of God. It’s not just bible study, fun events, worship or serving others. It’s all of these things in new and bright ways. These things evolve, but what always stays constant in all we do as United Methodists is that we are a community providing the potential for nurturing human beings into the fullness of their humanity. We believe we have a responsibility to innovate, sponsor, and evaluate new forms of community that will encourage development of the fullest potential in individuals. Primary for us is the gospel understanding that all persons are important—because they are human beings created by God and loved through and by Jesus Christ and not because they have merited significance. We therefore support social climates in which human communities are maintained and strengthened for the sake of all persons and their growth. We also encourage all individuals to be sensitive to others by using appropriate language when referring to all persons. Language of a derogatory nature (with regard to race, nationality, ethnic background, gender, sexuality, and physical differences) does not reflect value for one another and contradicts the gospel of Jesus Christ.
As always my prayers are always with you and your ministry. If you have any prayer requests I would love to pray for you and help you in any way I can. We youth workers and disciples need to stick together in the love and grace of Christ. Please don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so that I can pray for you and help you in anyway I can.
Thanks for all you do for the Kingdom of God!
Grace and Peace,
Bradley W. Alexander
Director of Student Ministries