Author

Rebekah Bled

Browsing

Just as God sent Jeremiah to remind the Israelites who they were in exile, he sends reminders to us of his love, faithfulness and promise during our ordinary days at school and home. It’s helpful for us to set our own signals to look for God’s promises and reminders.

One thing people did before cell phones was to tie a string around their finger to help them remember something. When they saw the string on their finger, it would act as a hint that there was something important for them to pay attention to.

When I was a little girl, a babysitter of mine said she decided every time she saw a ladybug, she would remember God. I was inspired by that idea, and used that as a reminder for myself as well. I decided to make my own reminder of God’s goodness. For years now, every time I hear a train whistle, no matter where I am, I remember that God is faithful.

What about you? What hints are you setting as mental “strings around your fingers” to remind you to look for evidence of hope and God’s promises?

As a reflection, ask students to choose something that they encounter in their daily life to remind them of God’s promises. Have them make a note on their phone, write it on their hand, or set another reminder to help them form the habit this week. Don’t forget to ask for God sightings next week!

Though the Ten Commandments are well known even today in popular culture, they can be a little less than clear when it comes to the lives of teens today.  What does it mean in the 21st century to not worship idols?  Why should students in your group choose to not covet?  And what in the world is coveting?  This hands-on activity will help students explore the Ten Commandments and understand them as they put them in their own words.

Divide students into groups of two or three. Give each group some card stock, markers, and a Bible. Instruct the groups to draw a tablet resembling the one the original Ten Commandments were inscribed on. Then, instruct the group to work together to rewrite the Ten Commandments on their tablet in their own words.

It may be helpful to have students work through the Commandments one by one, completing the sentences:

  • I think God gave his people this commandment to help them________.
  • If I had to explain this commandment to someone at my school, I would say______.

Students may find it helpful to take notes on their phone or a piece of scratch paper.   Once they have completed their work, have them transfer it onto their tablets.

The goal of this exercise is to give students an opportunity to dig deeper into scripture, contextualizing it for their environments.

Sometimes it is ok to cry at work. In fact, sometimes it is the only option. When a parent comes in and says, “My spouse is terminally ill and the kids don’t know yet. You need to know though, because we can’t go through this alone.”

Later, when the kids do find out and they walk stiffly in the doors of your office wide-eyed and forgetting to breathe because their world just fell apart.

When there is an accident which you pray will lead to healing, but instead leads to death.

When you get the call, “They did not make it.”

At a funeral when the grieving family dressed in black sits on the front row staring straight ahead, wondering how the world still manages to spin.

These are the times to cry at work. This is what it means to be with.

I am writing this as a form of grief, in my office, tears blurring my vision, stunned by the call I just received. My coworker has soulful music blaring and his head in his hands, reeling from the same call. Oblivious, the interns walk past, prepping first aid kits for an upcoming mission trip. I am typing and wondering: wondering when the funeral is and whether you can miss a funeral for a mission trip, or if it is better to miss a mission trip for a funeral. I’m wondering why he didn’t stand up and walk like so many in the Bible when that is exactly what we prayed for. And I’m wondering, mostly, how to walk with the students who today lost their parent.

Can it be sometimes, that tears are intercession? Can it be that when our throats grow tight and our clammy hands grasp at the folds of our sweaters and jeans, it is a reaction against the violence of death? Can it be that Emmanuel weeps with us, though he knew since the beginning of time that this would happen? Can it be that that is precisely why he weeps?

Sunday is coming, but today is Friday.  

Today is Friday and my throat hurts with tears and hope deferred. My hands are cold and my face is hot. Mascara is gone, black smudges left.

But Sunday is coming. Sunday is coming.

This is not the end.

“He will destroy death forever. The Lord God will wipe away the tears from every face and remove his people’s disgrace from the whole earth, for the Lord has spoken.” – Isaiah 25:8

I was never going to be a youth minister. Because of the money, because of the schedule, because of the summers, because of the food, because I had grown up in a youth ministry family and taken a front row seat to the nuances of this ministry life, I was never going to do it myself.

I majored in Organizational Management because I thought I could use youth ministry as a pivot into HR. Years of team meetings in the living room and church planting strategizing around a shared table, living in the house with the perpetually open door in between the high school and middle school, and working shoulder to shoulder with people from all backgrounds on missions trips and internships could surely be translated.

To get experience working with more people, I volunteered to do a year long internship at an international church in a capital city in South America with a missionary family whose picture had long hung on my parents’ fridge. I offered to do anything. When I arrived they said, “Great! We need a youth minister.”

I had forgotten to say that I would do anything but that.

I called the international school I knew one family at, got a sports schedule, and went to every home basketball game. I had gone to middle and high school basketball games every single basketball season in memory. This was life as usual. But in my mind, I always knew it was temporary.

As I taught Sunday school, recruited volunteers, held game nights, and tutored middle schoolers in sanctuary etiquette and how to read a hymnal, my dreams of human resources found application in diplomacy. Most of the kids in my new youth group had parents who worked in the Embassy, and I asked their parents enough questions to discover that I could work in the Consular Office as a Foreign Service Officer. This was the new plan. My path to greatness and fulfillment. My pivot.

Except for one thing: I had grown to love the teenagers in the city.

I found myself constantly thinking about how to present the story of Jesus to sixth graders who hadn’t heard, how to structure family events to for discipleship, what we could play at the next game night, and how to nurture leadership within the students themselves. I began to be let into the student’s world and stories. They never asked me for advice, but they asked all the time for me to help them make memories together for the time they overlapped in the city.

I began to see my role as strategic: for a short time, students from everywhere converged in this city. My role was to help a church see, embrace and equip them before their next move. I became an advocate, blogging, taking and posting pictures, showing up at council meetings, moving kids to the front row of the sanctuary instead of the back.

I felt subversive and purposeful and I was experiencing more and different joy than any other point of my life. I realized then I would have to give all of this up for “a real job” where I could “make my fortune”.

What a crisis of choice.

For months I prayed, journaled, and talked angstily about it, the choice boiling down to the kids or the career. My self-importance and self-fulfillment or self-abandonment. My vanity and hopes of adventure or life as usual. Surely I wouldn’t be asked to do the thing I always thought I would leave! Surely I wouldn’t find myself wanting and longing to do that thing.

Though when I finally said, “Ok” — not even yes, but ok — it had an edge of disappointment for all the ways in which I would never now be grand, it is in this ordinary youth ministry life that I see Jesus in the people he so tenderly loves: his teenagers in every corner of the city. It is a privilege and honor to tell the story, structure some of the memories, and go to the basketball games for yet another season.

This is how I unearthed my calling. Reluctantly, temporarily, through wrestling, through action, through joy.  May the same happen for you.

What if you could find a creative way to tell the story of Christmas without endless practices and fretting about intricate costumes?  No problem, we have just what you need!

This reader’s theater script is under 15 minutes and calls for a Narrator, and five additional readers. It is made to read rather than memorize. However, be sure to have students practice to avoid monotone. Since each reader has a character of an animal, this lends itself to creative costumes. Each character appears on stage once, with the exception of the narrator, who is present throughout. This skit is between eight and fifteen minutes long, depending on the speed of your transitions and readers.

Narrator: Have you ever wondered what the story of Christmas would look like through the eyes of the animals who witnessed it unfolding? Today we’re going to go behind the scenes and take a peek through the eyes of some eyewitnesses. Our story begins in Mary’s front yard.

Grasshopper: I was minding my own business, hopping around Mary’s garden, listening to Mary singing as she often does these days – ever since she got engaged that is – when all of a sudden I saw a flash of light. From inside the light a figure emerged that was unlike anything I have ever seen. All the stories from generations of grasshoppers before flooded back and I remembered something called an angel.

I heard a deep voice say, “Don’t be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with the Lord.”

He said many things I didn’t understand and then as quickly as he came, he was gone. Then instead of singing about her soon-to-be husband, Mary was telling her mother something about a baby and a savior and I’m pretty sure I also heard the name Emmanuel.

I’m no expert on humans, but even I know it’s impossible for Mary to be pregnant. She’s not even married yet! What a scandal that would be. No; Mary is wonderful, but if a savior is really coming, it won’t be through her. That angel must have the wrong girl.

Narrator: Now let’s take a peek into the workshop of Joseph the carpenter who is also Mary’s fiancé.

Termite: I don’t know. I’m a termite. My lot in life is to eat wood. I just don’t know about human stuff. But I do know that something strange has been going on around here lately. Usually Joseph is a pretty even-tempered guy. He works here in his workshop, making perfect furniture from sunrise to sunset, hardly saying a word. That is, until yesterday.

Yesterday is when the trouble began. Girl trouble. The fact is, Joseph´s fiancé, Mary, is pregnant, and he knew nothing about it. He says she says an angel visited her and told her not to be afraid; that she had found favor with God and the Holy Spirit made her conceive and the child in her womb is the Savior; the one we’ve been waiting for all of these years.

Joseph stormed into his workshop yelling, “She might have found favor with God, but she’s lost her favor with me!”

He has spent the past few days slamming tools around, muttering that he doesn’t see any other solution but to break up with her. But he still loves her. Even in his disappointment, his love is evident. He genuinely wanted to marry Mary.

He keeps shaking his head and saying, “Why’d you do it Mary? Why’d you do it? Your life will be so hard now.¨ Joseph´s plan is to break up with Mary quietly instead of publically, so as not to make her life any harder than it already is.

Joseph has been formulating his plan for the past two days and he is exhausted. He’s sleeping now.

What? What’s that?

Something’s happening.

Joseph just woke up and is talking about an angel. Could it be the same one that visited Mary?

Joseph just ran out the door to tell Mary he’s sorry. The angel visited him in a dream and confirmed everything she had said. He ran away yelling, ¨”We’re getting married! The baby’s name will be Jesus because he will save his people from their sins! We’re getting married!”

Huh.

Thank goodness I’m just here to eat wood. This is getting complicated.

Narrator: Several months later we meet Mary and Joseph again on the road trip to Bethlehem.

Donkey: It’s a long way to Bethlehem, especially with a pregnant lady on your back. This road is crowded too. After Caesar Augustus came to rule he decided he wanted to tax people. To tax people, you have to know how many people there are. So Augustus ordered everyone in the Roman Empire to go to the city of their ancestors to be counted. Why he couldn’t of counted them where they were already living, I don’t know. But it seems the whole world is from Bethlehem.

I’m going to guess that the lady on my back and her husband are by far the most interesting people in this crowd though. For one thing, even though they’re married, they sleep in separate rooms. For another thing, they’ve both had private visits from an angel.

Both times the angel said the same thing: Mary is pregnant with the Savior. THE Savior! The one we’ve been waiting for.

Now, I’m a simple donkey; I’m not usually given to fanatic stories. Back in the old days there were prophets who brought us the word from the Lord, but we haven’t heard anything like that for a long, long time. I guess it’s been, oh, about 400 years.

But two visits from an angel? Two different people with the same incredible story? Well now, that’s something.

And then there are the prophecies.

The Savior is supposed to be born in Bethlehem, if I remember it correctly. And well, the lady, this Mary, she’ll have her baby soon, no doubt about it. I just hope she can make it to Bethlehem.

Hmm.Two visits from an angel. One story. His name will be Jesus because he will save his people from their sins. I wonder……

Narrator: Once in Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph began looking for a place to stay. We go now to the last Inn they tried to find space at. The mouse that lived there saw the whole thing.

Mouse: My favorite thing about living in the Inn? The food. I am, without a doubt, luckiest mouse in the world. The more visitors there are, the more food is served. The more food served, the more crumbs are dropped. The more crumbs dropped, the more I get to eat! And let me tell you, there have never, EVER been so many people in this Inn as there have been this week. There is absolutely no space left. There’s barely even room in the barn for all the animals!

Oh yeah!

I forgot about the barn!

There’s a family in the barn!

It happened like this: A few hours ago there was another knock on the door; another couple in town for the census; another couple looking for a place to stay; everything was normal. Except for this: the woman was in labor.

We heard the new infant’s cry about an hour ago. Wow, I hope that family’s ok. Being born in a barn is no luxury. I should know!

Well, no time to stand around and talk when there’s food to eat!
I’m off!

Narrator: Now let us look into the barn through the eyes of none other than the resident barn swallow herself.

Barn Swallow: I’ve lived in this barn a long time and I’ve seen a lot of things. A lot of births even. I’m telling you, nothing goes on without me noticing. But I have never seen something like this.

About an hour ago a baby was born in here. A human baby! The father cut the cord that tied the baby to the mother, washed him off, wrapped him up and set him down right in our manger! Right in our food trough! Never have I seen a human born in a barn, never have I seen a man make a bed out of an animal’s feeding trough, and one more thing: never, and I mean NOT EVER have I seen a star as bright as the one right above this barn. It has been there all day too. As if it knew this family was going to be here tonight and that this dear baby was going to choose this place of all places to be born.

I’m not given to superstition, but somehow I think this star was preparing this barn for this baby; marking it and making it special. Maybe this baby is someone different? I have just never seen anything like it. I have to tell the others.

Narrator: On the outskirts of Bethlehem, there were some sheep spending the night in a field with their shepherds.

Sheep: Have you ever heard an angel sing before?

Me neither.

Not until tonight.

I grew up in Bethlehem; a place that has always had a mystery woven through it. My whole life
there have been rumors: rumors of a prophecy, of the son of David being born here; of a savior; even of angels. I’ve pictured what one would look like, and in my mind it looked awesome. But I was wrong. Dead wrong. Angels are even better than I imagined.

Tonight as we were sleeping, the sky was torn open by light as a thousand angels came, singing louder and more beautiful than I’ve ever heard anything. It was breathtaking. What they said was even better. They were announcing a birth.

The angels sang that a savior has been born who is Christ the King, and we would find him wrapped in cloth and lying in a manger.

Why the baby whose birth the angels were announcing is in a barn, I don’t know. But we took off right away to find him.

I know I’m just a sheep, but I can’t wait to meet him.

I think this baby might be the answer to the mystery.

“Again, this is the common experience. They walk ahead of us, and walk too fast, and forget us, they are so lost in thoughts of their own, and soon or late they disappear. The only mystery is that we expect it to be otherwise.” – From Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

I have this quote written in dark ink on a purple envelope, used as a bookmark in whatever book I’m reading as a reminder. A reminder that it takes very little to abandon someone, even the someones you love the most. All it takes, according to Marilynne Robinson, is walking a little faster then them, saying ‘yes’ to one more thing, and then another, and another, getting absorbed in your own schedule, thoughts, and plans that your pace continues to increase. At some point, those you thought you were walking with are left behind, and though you didn’t mean it, you may have done the leaving.

The book Housekeeping presents the idea that abandonment takes many forms, most of them as subtle as being out of step without noticing that your rhythm no longer matches the one you were walking with.

Because I work with students, a demographic systemically abandoned by people older than them who push them to perform in place of relationship (for more on this, see Hurt by Chap Clark), this matters to me. Because I am the wife of a husband whose schedule does not always match mine, as he studies and I student-minister, this matters to me. Because I am a daughter, a sister, a friend, a person, this matters. It is, after all, so very easy to “get lost in thoughts of my own” and “disappear”. Is is, after all, so easy to accidentally abandon.

I read Housekeeping on the plane en-route to a conference at Fuller Youth Institute a few weeks ago. This conference was based on applying research for the purpose of churches reaching young adults. 10,000 hours of research is distilled in the book Growing Young by Kara Powell, Brad Griffin, and Jake Mulder, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I won’t say much here, because I just really want you to read the book, but I will say that they discovered one critical piece of reaching young adults: empathy.

Feeling with.
Walking with.
Being with.

Paying attention to and taking seriously the life of another.

This is the polar opposite of abandonment. In fact, in my opinion, it is the anti-dote. Empathy does not get lost in thoughts of yourself, but notices the other to the degree that you fall into step with them, and begin to feel what they feel.

There is another quote in Housekeeping that speaks to this. The main character, Ruthie, is sure someone else has walked out on her. That she is quantifiably alone. All the feelings come then. All the fears no one is there to speak against. Until Ruthie’s Aunt Sylvie appears and hugs her. Ruthie hugs back and starts to explain her fears, irrational as they sound when spoken aloud.

“I know, I know,” Sylvie replies, still hugging. “That was the song she rocked me to. I know, I know, I know.”

Empathy.
Walking with another.
Noticing another.
Being the one to wrap another inside an embrace and sing, “I know, I know, I know” and mean it.

h/t the918.org (reprinted with author’s permission)

Leaves are changing colors and begging to be raked, you’re using soon-to-expire gift cards from last Christmas on pumpkin spice lattes, campus cafeteria visits are humming along, bonfires are now a viable program option: it’s finally fall! While it’s tempting to say a great big, “I’m Done” after a full summer, use this slower time wisely to keep next summer from becoming an ongoing emergency. Specifically this month is the perfect time to plan summer missions.

1. Vision
Use this time to scout out opportunities, pray about theme and guiding scriptures and stories, sketch out a loose guideline for missions prep content, begin to compile a list of your dream team of adult volunteers.

2. Logistics.
This year’s graduating seniors are already feeling pressure for next summer’s plans. Juniors are looking towards internships and summer jobs. Sophomores are deciding when they can squeeze in driver’s ed. Freshmen are figuring out who their people are and are making plans accordingly. Parents of middle schoolers already have a mental outline of which weeks their kids will be at summer camp. Make it easy to sign up for summer missions now by releasing registrations with date, cost, location, and missions prep requirements.  You don’t have to know every detail, but if you can get these basics out, you will ensure those who want to go can make it happen.

3. Students.
A wonderful thing about having logistical information ready for next summer’s mission trips is that you are freed to pursue one-on-one invitations with students. Over and over again a personal invitation and conversation is the difference between the students who talk about coming, and who is actually seated in the church van next summer.

And now for a benediction:  May youth ministers far and wide raise their salted caramel lattes in salute and solidarity, as we pray through and plan next summer with intentionality, together.

Taking a group of students outside the walls of the church to serve in mission with other Christians is a major undertaking.  Far too often we spend all our time planning the supplies and making sure everyone has their packing list without helping students engage their imagination and hearts with what is on the horizon when we partner in mission with other people.  This discussion guide will help you start that conversation.

Imagine. There were people in great poverty. They had no say in the events of their own lives. They had no power of choice. There was even an order passed to kill their babies. They had nothing except a promise, but even that promise seemed to have been forgotten.

These people were slaves. They had been slaves as long as anyone could remember. Even the oldest grandfather’s oldest relative had been a slave. They knew there was a time, far back in the recesses of their history that this people group had not been enslaved, but no one who was alive had actually experienced freedom.

Instead they worked. In the grime, in the sun, with salty sweat dripping into their eyes and making their lips chapped, under the strictest supervision, they built cities for their oppressors. And since their oppressors feared this people group, they had no mercy.

Exodus 1:13-14, “So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves, and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and all kinds of work in the fields. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.”

You are in this group. It has been four hundred years. You feel will always be a slave, just like you mother, and her mother, and her mother before her. You are carrying heavy buckets full of sand. Your feet are barefoot. You slip. The slavemaster hits you in the same place he hit you yesterday. It still hurt when you got up this morning and now, with the second hit, pain shoots through your body. You groan.

Exodus 2:23 – “During those days the king of Egypt died and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant. God saw the people of Israel-and God knew.”

What if we use this verse as a model for our missions preparation?

Look at the Exodus passage again, taking out all but the action words: God heard, God remembered, God saw, and God knew. He didn’t begin with solutions, he began with identification.

Hear.

Pay attention to the kinds of questions you are asking of others. Do they assume certain answers? What is your posture towards listening? How will you react if someone says something you don’t want to hear? Get defensive, change the subject, ask, tell me more?

Only when we “unload” our questions from assumed answers can we really begin to listen.  In listening, you allow “the other” whoever that other is, to come close and have a voice.

Here’s are some examples:

  • Wouldn’t you like me to help you with that? vs. Is there any way I can serve you?
  • How much are you dying to follow Jesus? vs. Will you share a story about a time you felt close to God?
  • Do you prefer getting up at 6:30 or 6:45? vs. What time should we set the alarm for?
  • What kind of house do you want me to build for you? vs. Share with me what a partnership looks like from your perspective.

Remember.

God remembered. So should we. There are more kinds of poverty than lack of stuff. Remember a time you felt voiceless, hopeless, ashamed, helpless or isolated. What did that feel like? What did you hope for in that situation? What helped? What hurt?

What did God remember? His covenant to Abraham. We do not have to fix anybody. God is the rescuer. Where has he rescued you? Where are you in the midst of being rescued? God remembered his promise and he saw it through. He is the rescuer. Most of all, remember that.

See.

Who has ever been visited by someone from another town? What did you do when they were here? In every place we go, there are people who live and die in that place. It is not a drive-through destination for them, it is their home. Let them show it off! As we empathize with people’s hurts, let’s also have eyes eager to see what they see. We may see clutter, they may see records of accomplishments – trophies, letters, even old homework. We may see dirt, they may see the road to a friend’s house. We may see strangers, they may see family members and dear friends.

Everyone has something they are proud of. Give the gift of interest! Ask questions! Let people show you their turf, and tell you their stories. There is always more than meets the eye. Have eyes to see the promise God has for the people he is working among.

God knew.

When you leave your culture, God knows. He knows what it takes for you to leave and come back, the calling he has on you, the struggles you face. He knows the future and what it will take to get there, and precisely what will happen in the meantime. He knows you, he loves you, he gets you. You are not alone. He knows.

The people we are going to are equally precious. He knows them too. Each one of them. God knew and God knows, and it’s worth repeating this over and over again, because it’s a game changer. We are not alone. God beat us to our mission and he knows precisely what is going on there this moment. He knows.

God heard, God remembered, God saw and God knew. May, we who are made in his image, do likewise.

For further reading check out: https://www.chalmers.org/our-work/redefining-poverty/what-is-poverty/

His name was Max and for a while, we were friends. We hung out at church, mostly. He was in fourth grade, I was in third. One Wednesday night after our grade-specific classes had met, I heard the news. During “Good News and Prayer Requests” in class, Max had stood up and proudly announced his good news: Rebekah is my girlfriend.

Only, I wasn’t his girlfriend.

It wasn’t a lie, exactly. Max thought it was true. I was a girl and I was his friend. When his friends told my friends and my friends told me, I laughed nervously. He was older, he’d already announced it, I was flattered, I was scared to bring it up. “Yeah, I’m his girlfriend,” I answered my friends. By the next Wednesday, Max and I were no longer together.

We never did talk about it.

Take out the names Max and Rebekah and this could potentially be the story of our graduating high school seniors, college students, and young adults and their relationships with our churches: not talking, not defining our relationships, and not staying together.

What is at risk when we fail to have the conversation? What becomes possible when we engage in this deeply intentional way with the people we have been entrusted with?   

Steve Argue of Fuller Theological Seminary proposes the idea of a “define the relationship” (DTR) conversation with churches and young adults to address this very thing*.

“At one time or another, you’ve probably had to do this. It’s that moment in a significant relationship when you take a moment and ask, “Who are we, together?” “How shall we relate to each other?” “What can I expect of you, and you of me?” and “Where is this thing going?” Relationships that don’t have one (or more) DTRs live in ambiguity and eventually dissolve because no one is clear as how to relate, act, or anticipate. Ambiguous relationship = break-up.

Faith communities need to have a DTR with their 20-somethings before more blame is launched or another program is created.” (http://youthspecialties.com/blog/its-time-to-define-the-relationship-with-our-emerging-adults/)

Taking a cue from Steve Argue, and Fuller Youth Institute’s research on Growing Young, we had a “define the relationship” conversation with our newest young adults: our high school students on the cusp of graduation. Here are some tips for your own DTR:

Before:

Be clear in your own mind on what the church leadership expects from young adults, and be equally clear about what young adults can expect from the church leadership and congregation. Do the research necessary to tell the truth here. Often, institutional clarity is a process. Don’t start this process at 9pm the Saturday before the Sunday of your DTR. If the goal of a DTR is to minimize ambiguity, than you do not want to begin by muddying the waters.

Lean into already existing rhythms. Don’t know what 25-29 year olds can expect from your church or what to expect from them? Then don’t start there. Start with your graduating high school seniors and their families. Continue your commitment to them as young people, expanding the definition of what that means in this new chapter.

During:

Have the DTR over food. We texted each student asking their favorite cereal on Saturday night. On Sunday morning they showed up for our DTR and for the cereal they had ordered. Your young adults need to know you want them there and can’t imagine having this conversation without them.

LISTEN to your young adults! They are really good at being their age. They will give you all kinds of clues about what it’s like to be in their skin, what they are scared of, what they hope for, where they need the church to be Jesus for them in the lives they actually live. Don’t miss this beautiful chance to know some of the most interesting, passionate people you will ever meet.

Frame conversation through stories. We started our DTR by asking, “Why are we having this conversation? What’s at risk if we don’t have it?” and told a story of a relationship stunted and soured over miscommunicated expectations leading to feelings of betrayal and resentment. The risk is high. The risk is ourselves, our community, our contribution. I told another story then, of a relationship I am committed to forever: my marriage. Lead with stories, pulling out themes of risk and hope, and mostly, of a community with a shared future that young adults participate in creating.

After:

You have to mean it. The thing about DTR’s is that relationships without a future don’t have them. A DTR is a step towards a promise of continued relationship. Keep your promises by giving clear next steps and channels of communication. In our context right now this means the young adults meet early for breakfast and conversation every Sunday, then serve the children in the kids department for the Sunday school hour. This is not something they did before our DTR, but it is an experiment in the vein of the new relational expectation on both our parts. We talked about a movement into adulthood being a movement from consumption to collaboration in our DTR. Now, post initial DTR, there is a clear path to collaborate with other adults for the sake of the next generation.

Remember these are your people! This is a new form of embrace for people who you already love. The students who your church has adored as children, cheered on as middle schoolers, and loved all the way across the high school graduation stage still need their church.

Though the relationship shifts with our high school graduates, it does not disappear. Define and celebrate this new phase together!

 

*For further reading on young adult ministry, don’t miss Fuller Youth Institute’s blog: https://fulleryouthinstitute.org/posts