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Youth workers get energized, affirmed at Connection 2005

 


Youth workers get energized, affirmed at Connection 2005

April 6, 2005

By Kathy L. Gilbert*

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)—Overworked, underpaid and “pizza’ed out,” more than 200 youth workers gathered at West End United Methodist Church to be reminded that they are “beloved children of God” “masterpieces of God’s creation” and “called by God” to teach and lead young people.

Speakers and workshop leaders spent four days reminding youth workers of how important their roles are in the lives of young people and giving them tips and tools for carrying out their ministry. Connection 2005 was held March 30-April 3 and sponsored by the denomination’s Board of Discipleship.
 
The Rev. Michael E. Williams, pastor of Blakemore United Methodist Church in Nashville, started the conference by telling participants they were “beloved children of God.”

Williams asked the youth workers to think about how easy it is to make someone feel unloved. “Do you know how many youth, children, adults have no idea how beloved they are? The most important thing you can be for a young person is to be someone beloved and an example of someone who is abiding in God’s love.”

The Rev. Vance Ross, executive with the Board of Discipleship, energized participants April 1 by challenging them to remember that to do this work, “You must be called! You can’t do this just because you need a job.”

Vance told participants to remember their “called text,” the biblical scripture that brought them to youth ministry.

“One of the young people in your charge may be God’s architect for changing the world,” he said. “You are not here by incident or accident; you are here by God’s providence. What is your call text? What is God’s dream for you and through you?”

Sam Kautz, director of youth ministries for Anoka (Minn.) United Methodist Church, said Connection 2005 was “recharging.” “A lot of the focus has been to sharpen how we are being shaped and the challenges we face,” he said.

Youth leaders started their days with prayers, followed by a plenary in which they were challenged to tell their stories and connect with one another. Workshop topics ranged from balancing family and ministry to understanding how personality impacts ministry.

“The core team and myself wanted to plan an event that allowed the participants to be self-cared for while at the same time affirmed in their ministry,” said Susan Hay, director of youth ministry at the Board of Discipleship. “We wanted to empower them and send them back a better people.”

Dayton Edmonds, a Native American storyteller, led a workshop on “seeing through different eyes.” Telling stories passed down to him by his grandparents, Edmonds said, “What is good for one is not necessarily good for another, and what is truth today may be a nontruth tomorrow.”

Solomon Odoom, pastor at Floyd Grace (Iowa) United Methodist Church, said the workshops were “reaffirming and encouraging.” Odoom, from Ghana, West Africa, said when he was a boy, someone helped him discover Jesus. “It is my mission to help someone else discover Jesus,” he said. “If I had not been helped by a youth worker, I don’t know what would have happened to me.”

The Rev. Reggie Blount, who preached April 2, told participants to “live your life like the masterpiece God created you to be.” Youth pastors must be willing to guide, shepherd, nurture and “be the catalyst that helps youth stir up the gifts God has already placed inside.” Blount is an instructor of Christian education and youth ministry at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and senior pastor at Trinity African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Youth sell themselves short and convince themselves they are inadequate, he said. “They need to hear a message that says life is hard, and it’s certainly not fair, but God never promised us an easy life. But through Jesus Christ, God did promise never to leave or forsake.

“Beloved, let’s engage the prophetic voices of our youth by offering them a pastor willing to love, willing to guide, willing to direct, willing to care.”

For more information on youth ministries, go to http://www.gbod.org/youth/.

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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