Investing in Youth Ministry // M-Note 6.22.24

Last week, I ran into a retired pastor who recognized me (and I confess, I didn’t recognize her). She remembered me because her church and my childhood church would team up for student mission trips each summer. Way back when I was in high school, I went on several of those trips. We talked, swapped a few memories, and talked about what those trips meant to us. At the end, I thanked her for being the kind of adult that invested in youth. I told her that those high school mission trips were a significant part of my call to ministry. I wouldn’t be a pastor if it weren’t for my childhood church investing in, and caring about, students.
This week, both The Gathering high school and middle school students have been in Cleveland and Milwaukee respectively on mission trips.

The high schoolers helped a homeowner prep her house for new siding, worked in a food bank, transported historical documents from one museum to another, built shelving, strolled along Lake Erie, and got to hang out at Cedar Point. The middle schoolers walked in Milwaukee’s Juneteenth parade, cleaned community gardens and parks, visited seniors and special needs respite centers, and spent a night worshipping beside Lake Michigan (and it sounds like a few even dove in!).

The work matters, but it is the relationships that matter more. During this week, they will build relationships with those they are serving, with adults who care about them, and with one another.

I know that our students will come back with stories to share, mishaps that occurred, memorable experiences, profound encounters with other people and meaningful moments that they will never forget. I also know that through all of this, God will speak to them in a new way. It may be through the challenges they overcome, the belonging they feel, or the fun they have. It may be in the adults who invest in them, the people they meet while serving, the new friends they make, or the relationships that get strengthened during the week away. It may be that God shows up in worship, time around a circle sharing, or unstructured conversation at the end of the day. But I am certain God will show up in ways that these students will remember for decades.
When a church invests in young people – it matters. When a church spends time, energy, and resources to invest in the faith and life of students, they remember it. Because of so many of you, The Gathering is a church that is investing in new generations of students. This week’s trips are just a few small examples of the incredible ministry that is happening here in the church, ministry that some of you may not get to see or even know about. Thank you for being the kind of church that cares about this work, and you never know, maybe one of these students will be your next pastor!
Worship has been incredible and I look forward to keeping up the momentum. This weekend in our series Why Do We Do That?, I will be talking about the meaning and purpose behind communion. It will impact the way you experience this part of worship that we do each week. Have a great weekend, and I will see you Sunday.
P.S. For many of us, traversing the second half of life and faith can be tricky. How do we talk to our adult children about Jesus once they leave the nest? What happens when we find ourselves single or alone as an older adult? How do we navigate our social groups as friends move or pass away? What is our role in mentoring the next generation of Christians and sustaining the church? I’m going to be digging into these questions at the Second Act breakfast next month, on Tuesday, July 2, at 8:30am at the McCausland Site, and I hope you’ll join me. We’re loosely saying it’s for those 55+, but if you’re in a stage of life that has you wrestling with any of these questions, the morning is for you. You can register here.
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