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Today I had the first of many meetings to come with Anne Campion (SoulSpace, MCEC) and two other young adults in youth pasturing roles. We were asked to come prepared having thought of our own vision for youth ministry, and what follows is my own contribution, expanded in light of the conversation we had, and concluding on quite a different note.
My vision for youth ministry is first and foremost to offer youth a robust counternarrative to secular culture and its commitment to the principles of individualism, materialism, consumerism, and the pursuit of wealth and status over human community.
My hope for myself and others in and out of church leadership is that we can show youth a way through the important stage in which one is critical of the faith of one’s childhood, to a place where critical thinking, questioning, and doubting the role and doctrines of the church, are not the final word. I hope to lead youth through the process of deconstructing the faith that they had as children, to a process of reconstructing a mature life of faith through the traditional context in which they find themselves.
The commitment to history and tradition found in the Mennonite community, combined with the progressive insights of the emerging church will be the contexts that I base my own leadership on as I begin work in youth ministry. More generally, I hope to find ways to educate youth about the value of the church, not merely for its explicit or implicit beliefs, but for its value as a community within which one can live a fulfilled life. Rather than leaving the church for another community I would like to show youth the value of remaining in the church despite the decline of the church in western culture.
In attempting this sort of counterformation against the principles of the enlightenment and the scientific revolution I also want to stress, for myself and others, the need to avoid Christian supremacy. It is all too easy to proclaim Christ as the only way and only truth. What is more difficult, and more authentic to the Christian walk – with its twists and turns and high and low points – is to wrestle with the plurality of religions, schools of thought, and worldviews that are available to us in postmodern and global society. Rather than rejecting the other, and asserting our own truth over the truth of our neighbors, friends, and enemies, we should love our neighbor by not deciding in advance that we are correct in our standpoint. I think that only in this way can we know what it truly is to love others as Christ loves us.