For the last 16 months regional youth, young adults, and adults have been invited and encouraged to share their dreams, direct needs, and goals for their work in youth/young adult ministry. Dori Davenport Thexton, Phil Lund, and Nancy Combs-Morgan, the MidAmerica staff, have listened closely to our leaders and we are thrilled to report that we have many congregations who endeavor to realize and maintain robust and sustainable youth and young adult ministry.
Some of you may have taken part in our series of virtual and face to face visioning experiences, which we framed, “Thoughtful Conversations.” There were 5 virtual conversations in November and December 2012, and at 5 youth conferences and trainings we had focus group conversations and workshops asking the same questions. The questions, in essence, directed leaders to reflect on what their needs were to create and sustain youth and young adult ministries that are transformative, multicultural, which provide a deepening of spiritual practices and growth in our faith.
Here is what we have heard thus far:
Youth and Young Adult ministry in the MidAmerica region is valued. Congregations are thirsting for more….for more leadership development opportunities; for more skills, resources, and opportunities to connect youth and young adults
Congregations are ready, and in many areas are all ready hosting, and even co-hosting with other congregations, terrific youth and young adult conferences.
Leaders are naming the need for a regional body of youth and adults working together to maintain a greater vision and structure of accountability. The language being used is the emergence of a “Youth Ministry Advisory Group,” made up of 3 youth and 2 adults from the respective current districts (with a total of 15 leaders serving on this advisory group). The YMAG would work directly with MA staff in mapping out multi-year plans for enriching youth training opportunities (which congregations are not equipped to handle solo); to provide feedback on staffing for our Youth MidWest Leaderhship School; to provide opportunities for youth and adults to become co-trainers for such events as Basic Youth Advisor workshops; Spirituality Development conferences; Pastoral Care/Lay Chaplaincy trainings; Leadership Development Conferences, etc…. The YMAG will also be the communication portal for congregations to contact when they want to host a conference. The advisory group will have trained and talented Con Coordinators who can assist congregations in realizing their goal to have a successful event. The YMAG will also be working with staff in creating and sustaining service trip opportunities for youth groups in the region.
There is clarity that current Young Adult structures need to be fostered and to deepen/grow support for YA’s in MidAmerica. Leaders expressed a vision for a Young Adult Ministry Advisory Group, focusing on the entire region. Current YA groups would be working in solidarity with other YA leaders throughout the region, and our MA staff, working directly with congregations who want to hold a YA conference. Also, there would be YA’s, who are serving on the YAMAG, to work directly with congregations and clusters of congregations who want to deepen their commitment to young adult ministry. Having engaging service trip opportunities for young adults, as well as strengthening support for campus ministry in our region were all expressed as clear goals. Linkage with our MidWest Leadership School is seen as an excellent goal, to make sure that congregations have a commitment to send young adults and for funding/scholarships to be available to realize this goal.
There was a consensus throughout all of the conversations on youth and young adult ministry that “safe congregations” issues remain paramount. Congregations are wanting standards clarified by the region on what specific criteria is needed to make sure that any experience provides the highest standard to safety for all participants. One participant expressed the hope that the MA region would have a safety and liability document, posted, to make sure that all congregations would be striving to maintain those same safety practices in youth ministry. With regard to young adult ministry, there was discussion of have and maintain a statement of ethical standards, which are currently being used at many young adult events.
This is just the first round of sharing what we have heard from MA leaders on their vision for youth and young adult ministry in the region. We still want to hear more!