By Bradon French, Synod Intergenerational Ministry Coordinator (Youth)
I’ve been in youth ministry for 20 yrs now, 16 of those in paid roles. In moments of reflection within this suspended reality we find ourselves today, I’ve been reminded of a glaring, consistent mistake I’ve made in those 20 years, and it seems the right time to name it.
And before I do, just to clarify … this apology isn’t related to those times we returned kids from camps where they didn’t sleep, nor is it for those times youth group Maccas Crawls meant you drove a carful of random kids around suburbs for hours on Friday night followed by spending Saturday cleaning the car, and it’s especially not for *that* injury. I am really sorry about those, but this isn’t about them.
What I hope to say is that I’m sorry that, at least in my experience, our church has failed you as to how to form faith in your teenagers and your children.
Through arrogance or ignorance, we acted as though good leaders and better programs would do it best. We truly believed worship, games and Doritos with their peers was the primary strategy. Our intentions were honest, I assure you.
And now through lock-downs and isolation, we’ve left ourselves exposed. And so I hope this apology makes way for a realignment.
To be fair, there has been voices calling for it. An odd book, maybe a conference. And occasionally we’ve dabbled, but as we explore what ministry and discipleship looms like in this season, we acknowledge our relationship with you, the parents, has been neglected, and our ability to help you form faith in your children is woefully inadequate.
And if we’re honest, this isn’t limited to youth ministry. The church hasn’t realised and acknowledged the potential of families as faith forming communities for a long time.
So I’m sorry.
I also acknowledge this comes at a time when you’re experiencing increase responsibility for your child’s health, education and containment.
And if I’m really honest, this apology is also prompted as I look into the eyes of my own young children, who are seeking assurance and connection amidst a world that has shrunk to the boundaries of our property.
So yep. I’m sorry. I’m sorry that we also haven’t done a great job at acknowledging the positive influence you have had on your kids.
But I also want you to know that our remorse is fuelling our efforts to do better.
We remain committed to seeing your children flourish and thrive (albeit now a little less naive). I’ve been hearing from youth pastors and leaders who are working tirelessly to ensure ministry continues amidst isolation, and we’re just getting started. We want to support you. We want to learn from you. We want to partner with you.
And so I wanted to offer a final thought. This is my best wisdom, and it’s how I hope to parent and teach the faith to my kids. I also hope these will shape how nights might support and equip you. Not just during this Coronacation, but as a thumbline for ministry into our new reality.
- Be warm, not cool (with a hat-tip to Fuller Youth Institute). Be their parents. Be yourselves.
- Be honest. Name what you know, name what you’re feeling.
- Accept they will likely hold and express their beliefs different to you.
- Speak of hope and seek joy. Tell stories and listen deeply.
- Finally, here’s something we all agree on – your children are brilliant, strong and capable. (that’s why we wanted to spend so much time with them).
Intergen Youth Ministry guy. Father of two.