Big changes have been happening in the youth ministry over the past year. I have been serving at this congregation now for over 4 years. In that time I have graduated a whole class of high school students. I have also seen the great things about ministry at this church, and the areas for growth. Sensing that we needed to grow as a ministry and I need to grow as a leader, last Spring I invited a team of consultants from Ministry Architects to look at the Youth Ministry at the Presbyterian Church in Morristown. Many great things have resulted from that weekend. One of which was spending the summer casting a vision for the youth ministry and working on the foundation of the youth ministry.
Over the next several days I will be sharing some of the behinds the scenes things I have been working on and the vision for the future of the youth ministry. There are many exciting things going on, so stick around and find out what is happening in the life of the Youth Ministry!
Our church is going through several big changes, one of which was a change to our worship schedule. For many years, further back than anyone can seem to remember, this congregation has had two worships services. One at 9:15am and the other at 11:00am. And at 9:15, during our first service, our Sunday School classes met. For some families this was convenient, as parents could drop off their children at Sunday School and then attend worship without disruption. However, this has side effects. Most children and youth in our church did not attend worship from birth to high school graduation. And when they no longer had Sunday School, they didn’t come to church either. As the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, I do pretty well at the Youth portion of my job. However, when it comes to Young Adults it is an uphill battle. We have over 50 young adults who live in the area, who went to this church as children and youth, and yet the vast majority of them rarely attend. Many reasons can be attributed to this, but my suspicion is that lack of church attendance when they were younger and being in a ministry silo is the biggest contributor to their absence.
I am not the first one to see this result nor am I the first one to write about it. Recently a blog post with similar thoughts made the rounds on social media, entitled “Sunday School is Killing the Church.” As a church staff we spent close to a year talking about this change in our Sunday schedule, formulating a plan, and sharing a vision with the congregation. And finally this fall that plan has been put in place. Obviously we are only a couple weeks into the change, but we hope that this is a change that will affect generations to come.
In the few weeks that we have had a new schedule with Sunday School at 8:45 and worship at 10:00am, it has been great to see what a difference it has made already towards inter-generational worship. Along with this change in schedule, we have also made a few changes for youth involvement. We have a long time, well regarded Chancel Choir that has been an adult choir for years. This year the Music Director invited high school youth to join this choir. This affords our youth the opportunity to sing with adults at a higher level musically, as well as being mentored by choir members and forming inter-generational relationships. This year we also added an Acolyte program. It is my desire and the desire of the congregation to have youth involved and visible in the life of the church. It has been a beautiful change to attend worship on Sundays and to see youth singing in the choir, participating as Acolytes, taking notes in the pews for Confirmation, greeting at the front door, and ushering.
My hope, and the hope of our congregation, is that through this involvement in the life of the church, participation in Christian Community will become a habit of their lives both now and in the future. Numerous studies have shown that youth who involved in worship have faith that stick. This is actually a much stronger prediction for future involvement in the church than even their involvement in youth ministry. This is a sobering fact for someone who’s job is leading youth ministry. However, it is also a part of my role to connect youth with the congregation, help them form inter-generational relationships, and break down silos between youth ministry with the rest of the congregation, while still providing age-appropriate community. The best way to have youth adults in a congregation is to start by forming habits in the lives of children and youth. My hope is that these changes will further involve youth in the congregation both now and as younger adults.