Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Young Adults - Hopes and Desires from the church

In the June issue of "The Banner"  there was an article from a group of Young Adults that  I wanted to interact with a bit; to compare what these Y.A. were saying, with what happens here at Calvin CRC.  It would be good for you to read the article first, either in the magazine, or online at:

The article seemed honest, positive, and challenging for the church.  Chelsey Munneke, the author, starts out with her journey as a young adult Christian moving on to college, and her desire to "become involved in another Christian Reformed Congregation." 

We've all heard that young adults are checking out of the church, and to some degree that has happened here at Calvin as well.  We've also seen several young adults return to us from college and want to get involved in the life of this congregation.  Our "Lofty Studies" group, comprised of college age and working young adults, has steadily grown over the past couple of years  mirroring Chelsey's desires.  The question for us is, "Have we been honoring that desire with our young adults?"  

Chelsey didn't have it easy as she moved away from her home church.  In fact, she began to feel discouraged, excluded, "overlooked and forgotten."  She makes an interesting comment about her feelings of disconnect and discontent: "I was curious whether this disconnect came from me and my unwillingness to commit, or whether the CRC was struggling to connect with my generation."  

More than likely, for many young adults, it's a bit of both.  Many are busy with college life, so getting involved in a church just doesn't fit for them.  The church too  doesn't always know what to do with young adults, or maybe more accurately, is afraid to ask them the important questions of community that seem so important for them to have asked.   

While at a youth conference this past December, I attended a seminar on what the church was doing right when it came to embracing young adults into the life of any church.  It echoed the words of the group of young adults that wrote in The Banner.   Young Adults desire "deeper relationships, passionate commitment and convicting biblical messages."  They would "like to be involved with leadership in [the] local congregation, and want the church to be "a home in which we're needed, a family who gives us responsibilities and holds us accountable to them."  

Traditionally, maybe we have not done that as good as we could have, but we are on to something here at Calvin.  We are trying to answer the lament in the article that "the church has not often used or encouraged [Young Adults] gifts during the time of our lives when we are the most passionate, energetic, and available."

If you're watching our "Lofty Studies" group in the fellowship hall, you'll have noticed that they are taking up more and more room as they talk together.  It occurred to me, a bit ago, that this group is an invaluable untapped resource in the life of Calvin.  But how to engage each young adult in a way that is not threatening or putting on a guilt trip. 

I then realized that doing a Spiritual Gifting course would be a good way, so it was offered to them and several did it.  The nice thing about this Gifting course is that there's follow up afterwards, and that is the time to discuss their gifts and how they are, or are not, using them in God's Kingdom right now in their lives. 

The result has been that an avenue of communication has been opened, allowing young adults an opportunity to express themselves to the church.  Whether they truly wanted to get involved in the life of this church was now open for discussion.  This has been a great way to help them figure out gift based ministry and ways to use those gifts in God's Kingdom.     My hope is that they truly engage in the process of getting involved in something here at Calvin, or outside our community, but certainly beyond the "Lofty Studies" envelope. 

It was during one of these follow-up times that a young adult, who will be leaving us for 8 months to go to school, shared that it is his goal to get a job in Ottawa and be back at Calvin because he has forged some great relationships here.  When he returns, he wants to get involved in the life of this church.  That's neat stuff.  

For those young adults who have not done a gifting course the invitation is open to you, as it is for all those in Calvin.   

It was interesting to note from the course I took that churches that are doing things right have been doing the following:

1.  Valuing Youth and YA and affirming their presence.  (It's fair to say that Calvin has done that in it's youth ministries across the board). 

2.  Allowing Youth and YA to contribute in meaningful ways. (Doing things like Youth Praise Teams, being Mentors in SERVE, helping in Friendship Group and teaching church school, being GEMS and Boys Club leaders, and more, Calvin is moving in the right direction). 

3.   Recognizing and honoring youth and Y.A. regularly (More could be done in this area but some of the blog entries on this site attempt this in some small way).  

Similarly, churches that have raised teenagers and young adults who have remained in church into adulthood have been doing the following:

1.  Starting early when it comes to focusing on faith.  

2.  Working with families, not just youth. 

3.  Empowering teens to get involved in church, and the greater community, using their gifts as early as possible.

4.  Elevating expectations of teens when it comes to active participation in church life.  

Calvin is on the road to making these things a reality, and we should celebrate this.  In some areas we are doing well already, but there's always room for improvement.  

Looking at the current "Lofty Studies" group and seeing the potential, and desire, to engage in God's Kingdom, I am encouraged.  Watching a group of 8 youth from Calvin preparing for a trip to Winnipeg this July to  be mentors to youth with special needs is equally encouraging.  These, and other initiatives, may just help us lower that number of 70 % of our youth not attending church as they move to adulthood.

We need to continue to be vigilant in beginning the process of faith formation early.  That's why church school, GEMS, Boys Club, Intergenerational Church School, youth group, Lofty Studies, and yes, even our growing together groups are so vital to this church community.  These need to be places that allow for faith formation of our children, families, young adults, and adults.  They also need to be places where  mentoring and leadership opportunities for youth, young adults and adults can happen.  Those opportunities for service are many, and not just within the walls of Calvin's building.  

We are part of a church community, however, and there are always needs within it.  Currently we are searching for GEMS and Boys Club leaders, and more than likely a few church school teachers beginning this Fall.  If our young adults are anything like those in this article, I'm hopeful some will engage.   That hope extends to those who have been here for a bit longer too.  Will you consider how you are using your gifts in the life of the church, both inside and outside Calvin's walls?  

If any of you still wish to do the gifting course, please contact me.

In conclusion, this article was refreshing and encouraging.   Well worth the read.  Calvin is moving in some good directions and these may help to reverse the trend of young adult church defections.  I'm hopeful we will  see more of our young adults involved this next ministry season in some way, as well as many of you.

Blessings to you. 



Friday, June 24, 2011

CIA Camping - June 2011 #3

So, where were we.....oh yes.  We had just finished water football and have headed back to the campsite for some dinner.  On deck for this evening would be President's Choice Mac and cheese with white cheddar, and mixed veggies.  

Chris usually does this meal, with Jacob.  However, Jacob was unable to come this time, so Chris was feeling a bit lost.  No worries.  Leah stepped up and offered to help.  She got a large pot and filled it with water in preparation for boiling.  I started the burner on the stove and Leah proceeded to place said pot onto the stove.  Well, let's just say that I don't think she likes flames.  She bumped the pot and spilled water all over the burner, putting it out.  

Here you see Leah's hand wiping up the excess water. It took a bit of time to get all the water out so the gas could flow again, but we got things cooking soon enough.  

Chris was VERY hungry, and the water was taking a bit of time to come to a boil, so I guess he figured a bit of praying to speed things up would be in order? 

While dinner was being prepared, others got down to knitting, or is that braiding...I can never tell which.  : )  Seems that Jeannine needed a pointed stick to make this work for Hannah, so she simply made one for her.  

Supper was great, and then it was time for dishes again.  Notice that Fontana is doing them AGAIN.  She always volunteered.....what a great person she is.  Heart of gold under all that punching and whining.....  : ) 

As I mentioned earlier, you take a chance when you go camping with me.  Rain is certainly a 98 % probability during the camping trip.  So far, the rain had held off, and we were thankful.  Unfortunately, the rain did come after supper.  You can see Jeannine trying out her brand new rain coat.  Snazzy!  

Chad decided this would be a good time to do some reading. 

Jeannine and Mel worked on a crossword puzzle.  

A bunch of the YP decided to play a game where you need to slap your hand on the table and if you do it twice, it changes direction, but if you move your hand at the wrong time, you are out.  Quite fun actually.  I hadn't played that game yet....

...So I joined in.  Kevin tried for  a while, but it wasn't his thing.  THEN Hannah taught us another crazy game where you have to hide your teeth when you speak and go in one direction saying a word (I honestly forget the word, but Hannah can send a comment to tell us all) and if you say CAW, like a crow, you change direction.  The idea is to NOT show your teeth.  It was wierd, crazy, and yes, even fun.  Janine eventually got involved as well, which was great to see.  I'm glad we didn't video that, b/c we looked strange to say the least.  

The rain continued, so we started another crazy game.  I forget the name, but it involves cards, getting sets of 8 of the same thing, and using different sounds or gestures to get the attention of another person trying to trade the same number of cards as yourself to try to get that set of 8.  It looks calm here......

....but it didn't stay that way.  Look at Fontana trying to get our attention....what a hoot...or was that a seal's voice...no, it was an ape sound....

This round required different facial expressions and sounds to get another's attention.  

Hey , where'd that picture come from.  Ah well, you can get a better idea of the size of that scary spider in the outhouse. 

Back to our crazy game.  Here you see a normally sane youth pastor (steady now with the comeback comments) doing some pretty crazy stuff to try to get other people's attention.  I had Leah beside me, and boy, was she a pain; literally.  Kept punching me in the arm and stuff...I punched back.......It was a hoot.....(sorry, used that word already, but it was appropriate).

Here's Hannah, and I think Megan to the far right doing the same thing, so they can now switch cards...if they realize they are actually doing the same thing.  

No, I did not discover that big spider on the picnic table.  I'm trying to do some sort of sound here, but forget what exactly.  Certainly NOT the same as Leah.  She ALWAYS beat me...in cards, and in the arm. 

Here's Ben trying his luck, or waiting for the mosquitoes to come and stick to his tongue.  : )  

Fontana never won either, like me, until the very last time we played.  Can you tell she's happy with the outcome?  : ) 

I think this game taxed us all, but Hannah and Leah more so than the others.  I had a headache when we were finished, but it was LOTS of fun.  

The rain let up for a bit, and we ventured out to play some keep away frizbee.  As usual with this group, people play for keeps.  

I must confess that as we were playing, Leah was trying to get the frizbee from me.  I grabbed it, turned around and prepared to throw it to someone else, but didn't look first.  Leah was standing right there and I nailed her in the arm.  I felt so bad, but she just laughed....whew.....  : )  sorry about that Leah.  

It soon began to rain again, so we had our campfire under the shelter (no fire).  Here is Fontana trying to turn on our fake fire.  : )  The group seems to like the Q & A's I do to try to get more information out of them, so this time I did a book with what is your favourite..... and fill in the blank.  We had some good responses and I learned some new things about the group.  

I then read a story from the CBC's Vinyl Cafe.  A great story, but I dare say some of the group were getting pretty tired and may have nodded off before the story was over.  We actually went to bed around 10:45.  Hey, it was a busy day, so the rain allowed us to get our much needed sleep.  I was good with that.  We'd just have a fire in the morning.  

We all went to sleep to the sound of rain, and if you stayed awake long enough, a good thunderstorm too.  Before you knew it, it was morning.  Leah and Rosy don't look so good, but Megan seems chipper.  : )  They were all so sore....go figure! 

It seems Fontana was having a bad hair day this morning.  Poofy hair.  Someone coined the name "Poofy Foofy".  I think that one's going to stick.  Sorry Fontana.   

Another tradition in this group is to have Megan and Rosy make the Sunday morning pancakes.  They got to work soon after waking up.  

Rosy doesn't look too awake yet, but she did okay.  She managed to not get sick this time around as well.  Way to go Rosy!!!!!  

I'm not sure why Hannah is giving us that face.  She's at least eating....

Our pancakes were once again the "just add water" kind.  Janine made hers from scratch for herself and Fontana.  

She needed to wash everything we were using to prevent cross contamination,  but soon she was making pancakes. 

They didn't look half bad either.  I didn't get the chance to taste one.  I should have asked.  

As breakfast was being made, Kevin got a fire going with the rotten wood provided by the park.  Ethan loved watching, and then stuck around the fire to quietly watch it burn.  A neat picture.  

Megan finally got the chance to sit down and eat.  Nice job once again Megan and Rosy.  We finished off the extra eggs as well.  Leah fried most of them, and didn't do too bad.  She discovered that I'm a picky egg eater.  Over easy and don't you DARE break that yoke.  Then once you flip the egg, only a couple of seconds frying and it's done.  I had to watch them on that last part......

After breakfast, and Fontana doing dishes again, we had church.  Leah and Rosy read from a book of modern day parables that we've come to enjoy while camping....well, most of us.  Seems that Fontana is scared by these parables....hmmmmm

Here's the group baking in the hot summer sun, with a fire going to boot.  Crazy.....

After church it was juice and cookie time.   They loved the cookies.  

Here's Chris giving Ben a back rub in our fellowship hall.  : ) 

The two strange ones again... enjoying some cookies.  

Rosy is reading the book again while enjoying her juice.  Maybe she's going to critique the parable?  

After church we decided to pack up, head to the beach for one last swim and then head home.  Leave it to these two to make an adventure out of a simple change house.  

Here they are AGAIN, with weird facial expressions......

Yesterday Kevin dove in and got what I like to call a "sand burn".  You can still see the scratch from that.   

At the beach many headed into the water, but some stayed on shore.  Rosy simply wrote her name in the sand so another walking by someday would see her name, and wonder just who this person was.  I must be getting tired of this blog entry....I'm getting nostalgic.  : )  

The group decided to go for a walk to a point a bit away from us.  On the way back they discovered a mud pit of sorts and decided to work on their complexions.  Here they are getting all muddied up.     

You can't really see anyone's clothing, except for Megan.  What's with that Megan......

A great group shot.  I'm just glad no one got the bright idea to begin hugging the youth leaders.....boy am I glad...I think  I would have thought of it though...... : ) 

To make matters even better, they decided to roll in the sand.  

AHHH!   Who is that!  ????

Now THAT's Fontana.   Scary!  

Soon it was time to go, but there was NO WAY we were going to let this group enter our vehicles with all that mud on them, so into the lake they went.  Now, when one decides to put mud all over one's person, one soon discovers that mud had a tendancy to creep into places one didn't think mud could.  It took them a while to get out of the water....AND...I heard the funniest comment from the girls as they were going into the water.....they basically told the guys to move away....far away....Ah, this group of young people isn't so young any more.  

Ethan just played at the beach while all of this was going one, ocasionally looking up and probably wondering who these strange young people were that came camping with him.  

This is the group that did not go swimming or get all muddied up.  

Jeannine used all this distraction to pull out her snack food and share with a priviledged few.  

Even though the group had tried to get somewhat clean in the lake, we took them to the comfort stations  (the hydro and water finally came on sometime Saturday night) to shower.  A good idea.  When I got home, and started to vacuum out my van, I found mud everywhere......

After the showers it was time to head home.  The morning turned out sunny and hot. The rain really didn't bother us much, and that was GREAT by me.  

My van didn't go to sleep, but it looks like Kevin's van could help themselves. Ah, it means they all had a GREAT weekend together.  

That doesn't look very comfortable Ben.  I hope you didn't have a kinked neck when you got home.  

So ends the commentary about our camping weekend.  Lots of fun, memories and good times.  
Below you'll find a couple of video clips from the weekend.  Enjoy them.  
Thanks to all who came out.  It was great continuing to get to know you all better.  Thanks youth leaders for giving of your time as well.  I know you had fun, and also got to know our youth better.  

This Video is of Megan taking off a leech as well as YP jumping off the rocks. 

This video shows you just how competitive some of us can be when it comes to tackle duck, duck, goose.  Way to go Alex, against Kevin.  

Here's a short video of a bunch of us acting weird because of a game Jeannine taught us.  

This video clip shows a bit of how we play keep away football, AND how Kevin likes to get people in the water. 

This final video is of some of our YP discovering a mud pit.  Good for the skin, not so good for appearance.  : )