Wanted: lots of 'little Jesuses'
The question "What Jesus will you teach?" challenged some 25 youth-ministry workers at a spring conference in Oklahoma City.
The pastors, church staffers, and adult volunteers gained insights for "Youth Ministry in a New Decade." That was the focus for youTheology Youth Workers’ Gathering, held at OKC-Church of the Servant.
"Who are we asking young people to emulate?" posed keynote speaker Reggie Blount. In today’s fragmented society, they struggle with identity and long for "something, someone to live for," he said.
Youth-ministry workers can point them with conviction to what they love: Jesus.
Rev. Dr. Blount wants to see lots of "little Jesuses" in action today. His vision doesn’t mean claiming to walk on water or die for the sins of the world. But we can practice selflessness.
Whereas Jesus fed thousands, "little Jesuses" can be hospitable and generous, Blount described. His references included the book "ReJesus: a Wild Messiah for a Missional Church" and "Dust," a NOOMA film by Rob Bell.
Youth-ministry leaders must not toil alone, Blount said.
He also called on families and congregations to fulfill the covenant promises we all make when children and youths are baptized. In The United Methodist Hymnal, the Baptismal Covenants contain those vows of nurturing and teaching; of providing love, forgiveness, and prayer.
Blount described "seven spiritual yearnings of youth": identity, purpose, intimacy, healing, mentoring, nurture, and courage. Through a caring faith community, young people will grow in their service to others, increase their faith, and confirm their hope.
At Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Illinois, Blount is associate professor of Formation, Youth, and Culture. He also is an elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Also offered at the late March training were "Creating Youth Worship Experiences Without a Large Budget" and "Youth Ministry in the Small-Membership Church: Working With 10 or Less." Bishop Hayes was guest preacher.
The event was sponsored by Youth Ministries of the Oklahoma Conference and Saint Paul School of Theology.
Through Saint Paul seminary, youTheology introduces young people to the history of American Methodism, focuses on Christian vocation and service, and gives them opportunities to ask questions to mentors, seminary faculty, and peers.
Teens meet together on three weekends and, between those sessions, they talk with their local mentors at home and via Internet with other participants and youTheology staff.
The next Youth Workers' Gathering in Oklahoma will be April 27-28, 2012, at OKC-Church of the Servant.