When it comes to youth ministry, it may be time for the Anglican Church of Canada to wake up and smell the coffee.
According to the church’s national coordinator for youth initiatives, youth ministry is perceived as an “extra” and a “nice thing to do.” Few congregations see that youth ministry is something that grows out of the community itself, said Judy Steers in an interview at Common Ground 2011, an ecumenical conference for youth ministers and volunteers from across Canada held this month in London, Ont.
As a result, youth ministry is often the first thing to be cut from program when a church starts to feel the budget crunch, Steers pointed out. “I think the reality,” she told the Anglican Journal, “is that it’s something that a church needs to make an integral part of its ministry.”
Involving youth in the life of the church and making a firm commitment to support them are key steps towards building a vibrant youth ministry, said Steers, who is director of the Ask & Imagine youth theology and leadership program. Steers is also part of the faculty of theology at Huron University College in London, where she has been an adjunct professor of Christian Education.
The good news is that churches don’t need to hire professionals to set up and run youth initiatives. “People shy away from youth ministry because they think it has to be done by an expert, that they have to hire somebody to do it,” said Steers.
Instead, she sees a significant role for the grassroots connections and networks that are growing between youth ministers and volunteers, both regionally and across the country. “People have events like [Common Ground 2011] which re-energize, give them training, give them a group of people to stay connected to . . . it usually generates that momentum of [leads to] people’s commitment, knowing they’re not alone in it, and knowing there’s support, there are people out there doing similar things.”