Youth ministry is everyone’s ministry.
When children are baptized, we make promises on behalf of the whole church. Just as the parents and sponsors make their promises, the whole church is asked, “People of God, do you promise to support [this person] and pray for them in their new life in Christ?” Whether a child was baptized here or in another congregation, we carry out these promises made by the people of God. Sometimes our support and prayers are invisible, yet how meaningful when the recipient knows that we care and are praying!
After over a year of socially distancing, we are slowly moving back into sharing space together. During the last program year, much of our activities and opportunities for connection took place over Zoom. While activities continued, relationships were formed and new members found St Thomas, there was less opportunity for informal connection and cross-generational connection.
As we begin a new program year, we’re excited to see folks in the same physical space, able to have some of those informal conversations that we missed out on. As we gather together again, this is a great time to reconnect with the youth and children you know and to meet others – and to let them know that you support them and pray for them.
Sunday morning faith formation for toddlers, ages 4-kindergarten
Those age four through kindergarten are invited to join our Godly Play class. Godly Play teaches children an expressive language to help them explore and strengthen their innate sense of the presence of God. Storytelling and use of manipulatives are central parts of the learning experience.
Sunday morning faith formation for children from first grade through sixth grade
Elementary students are divided into two classes, first through third grade (room 12/14) and fourth through sixth grade (room 13/15). Basic materials for elementary grades include the SparkHouse Activate Faith series of teaching, animated videos, creative activities, and age-appropriate Bibles to bring the Bible to life. This year, music will be part of the faith formation program.
Confirmation Class for students in seventh and eighth grade
Students in grades seven and eight will be part of our confirmation class in room 16. Confirmation is a pivotal event in the life of young Christians. Tradition has developed this ministry with people in their adolescence because they are entering adulthood and their growth brings them new abilities to think abstractly about what they have been taught about faith. Confirmation Class is designed for the 7th, 8th, and early 9th grades. The basic text is Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, which covers five fundamental symbols of our faith: The Ten Commandments, The Apostles’ Creed, The Lord’s Prayer, Baptism, and Holy Communion. The class is taught jointly by the Pastor and Youth Minister. The Affirmation of Baptism service is held on Reformation Sunday of the ninth grade year. This event signifies the official reception of young persons into full adult membership and marks an important rite of passage.
Performing the ministry of an acolyte helps to shape young people as valued participants in offering prayer and praise in worship. Children are trained in the details of service as an acolyte. Primary tasks are lighting candles at the beginning of worship, assisting with the distribution of communion, and extinguishing the candles at the close of worship. Our high school students have also served as Lectors, and Assisting Ministers.
High school students
On Sunday morning, high school students meet in the Youth Room. The topics are based on student input and cover a wide range of interesting topics.
We understand that teenagers are a unique group of individuals who are a vital part of the church community. Our Youth Group engages in many ministry opportunities that promote life-long faith formation, from Bible study to local service projects and missions to camping experiences to national youth conferences. We are also a sanctuary of support, nurturing positive relationships, a place to bring your doubts knowing that others are in the same place or have been there before. We meet twice a month throughout the school year and several times over the summer.
Your friendship can make a difference for one of our teens –
Research has shown that teens who have five or more adults invest in them personally and spiritually are twice as likely to stay in church. One way we can think about this is to “reverse the youth ministry ratio.” We usually talk about needing one adult for every five students at an event, yet what if we considered that every student needed five adults to thrive? (Sticky Faith by Dr. Kara E. Powell, Brad M. Griffin and Dr. Cheryl A. Crawford, 79) You may not be that adult for every one of our youth and children, but you could be that for one of them.
It can be intimidating to start a conversation with someone younger than you because we often feel too far removed from youth as we get older.
So how can you get going? You don’t have to be the epitome of cool or have any special powers. The first step is to let them know that you care and listening makes a big difference. There’s an old adage that we have two ears and one mouth because we should listen twice as much as we speak. As you get to know our young people and learn what is important to them, this may be the most important step. “Listening is a practiced skill. Most of us do not listen well, even in one-on-one conversations. Instead of listening carefully to the words that are being said, we are planning what we’re going to say next. When we’re first getting to know someone, it is easy to fall into this trap. Remind yourself to pay full attention to the content as well as the delivery” (How to Talk to Any Young Person from the Fuller Youth Institute).
Since it is the beginning of the school year, you could begin by asking how school is going and truly listen to the answer. As students have experienced time away from school and changes in how it is done, they may have a lot to say. If you are interested in an intentional role supporting our youth and children through our programs, please speak with Pastor Lecia!