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Youth ministers reflect on "calling" young people

   

June 4, 2003
-by Becky Horst

Goshen, IN.— What will the church look like in the future? What kind of church leadership do we need? What is the purpose of the church?

Fourteen conference youth ministers and more than fifteen guests from various agencies and schools grappled creatively with these big questions in their annual meeting, held this year at Goshen College, Goshen, IN and at AMBS in nearby Elkhart, IN on May 14-17. The theme of the gathering was "Leaders for a New Church."

Anne Campion from MC Canada and Steve Ropp from MC USA began the meeting by asking each person to tell his or her own "call" story. Each story was unique, illustrating the many ways that God calls and develops leaders for the church. The meetings continued with a blend of worship, reporting from church institutions and agencies, open time to reflect, and discussion of issues and questions.

The MC USA conference youth ministers affirmed several guidelines for youth convention gatherings. They favor meeting every two years and meeting with MC Canada every fourth year. They reaffirmed the primary purpose of the convention as encouragement for youth to make or deepen their commitment to Christ. However, they asked that the secondary purpose, instead of focusing on identity formation, focus more on helping youth to see how God is at work through the Mennonite Church and Anabaptist principles. The group felt that if youth learn to appreciate and love the church, their identity would have a firm foundation on the gospel. Focusing too much on identity formation might descend into ethnic trappings.

Luke Gascho, director of Goshen College's Merry Lea Environmental Learning Centre, helped the group to engage imaginatively with the theme "Leaders for a New Church." In one exercise, groups created fairy tales to illustrate the purpose of the church. Underneath the dragons, wandering healers and magic glasses that emerged were profound truths about the church as a place where God's transforming love is at work.

Group members grappled with both their hopes and their fears for the church. They find hope in the authentic worship and commitment and relationships of young people that they lead. They hope that the new church might be like a dance, drawing in everyone it meets, playing many kinds of music. But what if the church is too distracted by consumerism and individualism to care about what God is doing? And what if the vision and gifts of young people are overlooked or unwelcome?

In the closing worship, Anne Campion encouraged the youth ministers to identify with both David and Samuel. They anointed each other with oil to recall their own anointing for leadership. They also reflected on the important task of calling and mentoring youth as the future leaders of the new church.

The writer is Associate Dean at Goshen College.