We are excited to have a guest blog post from Andrew Edwards. Andrew is our Student Ministries Director, but above that he is husband to his amazing wife Haley and father to two of the sweetest little ladies, Lilly and Quinn. If you haven't had the chance to meet Andrew in person you can find him on Sunday mornings in the Dock (across the hall from the auditorium) hanging out with the youth and listening to them share their hilarious "Stories of the Week."
“Let no man despise your youth; but you be an example to them that believe, in word, in manner of life, in love, in faith, in purity.” - 1 Timothy 4:12
In the middle of June I spent a week outside of Atlanta, GA with 400 youth from Vineyard churches around the Southeast. It might have been my favorite week of the year. One of the things that I love about Camp Vineyard is watching the kids from our church interact with kids from other churches - the way the camp is set up, honestly, kind of forces our kids into meeting other kids. They are split up into different color teams and have different youth leaders from other churches. I love meeting kids from other churches and hearing them brag about their youth pastors, hoping my kids are bragging about me.
Somewhere along the lines of growing-up I think that many of us forget what its like to be a middle schooler - the emotional ups and downs, the hormonal shifts, using deodorant for the first time - life becomes full of crazy changes. Or to be a high schooler, with one of life’s most major shifts just on the horizon, with all the pressures of navigating the approaching “adult” world - where to live, where to go to school, what job to take!
I grew up going to youth group mainly because my parents made me. And I stood in the back next to my best friend with my arms crossed, working hard at not participating. Worship was dumb and so were all my leaders. I never felt that any of it was authentic.
I still find myself concerned with authenticity (I guess I’m a skeptic at heart). But what I witnessed at Camp Vineyard was authentic faith. During ministry night I watched a mosaic of “popular” kids, “weird” kids, high school, middle school, black, white, rich and poor kids all worshiping and praying with one another. What I saw was the Kingdom!
I had the privilege of attending the Vineyard National Conference recently and one of the sessions was about a church without walls. (Bobby touched on it in a previous blog) My hope is that we are a church without walls, exterior or interior. I remember leaving for college, from the church where I had spent the previous 15 years of my life, and learning that the pastor still did not know my name. We all know what it feels like to be marginalized. We all know what it feels like to be forgotten. I want our church to be a place where everyone has the opportunity to know they are valued, where no one is overlooked.
May we not forget what is was like to be young, to have energy, to be daring, to have hearts filled with visions of the future. And may we not forget the presence of the youth in our community - as we acknowledge them, as we encourage them, as we listen to them and get to know who they are, may we be changed. May we all become more like Jesus as our church better reflects his Kingdom - a place without walls that divide.