By Carol Harston
As theologians are prone to do, Dr. Andrew Root blew us out of the water at First Baptist Decatur, Ga. last week. Deconstructing our cultural assumptions and unpacking theology in our midst, he led CBF formation ministers down a challenging path at ChurchWorks. After ChurchWorks ended on Wednesday, the CBF Youth Ministry Network Retreat continued with more presentations and more questions from Root. Can we value relationships as not a means to influence but as a means to meet Christ? Are we, the church, willing to wrestle with God enough to be limping to the pulpit to preach, as Jacob did in Genesis?
Though impossible to truly answer these questions, they brought us together. As the CBF Youth Ministry Network, we found ourselves wrestling with the questions together. We found ourselves formed by not simply commonalities of curriculum, retreats or camps. We found ourselves formed through our common search for God’s wisdom, humility and calling.
There are hundreds of youth ministry organizations at our disposal that offer a wealth of resources and training that the CBFYMN will never match. However, we know that it is possible to stand in a crowd of thousands of youth ministers and feel alone. Within the CBFYMN, we are working so that youth ministers feel known and loved. Hearing from our members on Friday morning, we know that it is working.
CBFYMN members tell us that when coming to our annual gathering every February, they feel as if they are coming home to their own people. There are no questions of how many youth are in your program or how many years you have been in youth ministry. There is room to grow beyond seminary connections and find community across the barriers that divide us, even within CBF life.
A seminarian said that she found hope in knowing that even when she leaves the seminary cocoon, we are already here to welcome her with open arms and walk this uncertain road together. One new to youth ministry said that her membership in the CBFYMN has proven invaluable. A long-time member of the network said that he has found the members-only Facebook page to be a game-changer for his ministry.
CBFYMN is dreaming some big dreams. We are working through a process to articulate CBF Youth Ministry Network’s Foundational Attributes to Youth Ministry that could be a guiding force for equipping churches, encouraging search committees, advocating in CBF life and ultimately certifying youth ministers to lead as true ministers, theologians and prophets.
How might your church help build a network that is coming together to seek God’s dream for youth ministry? Join in membership today so that we might struggle this road together—for we know that God meets us most profoundly through the radical means of human relationship in Christ.
Carol Harston is Minister to Youth at Highland Baptist Church and President-Elect of the CBF Youth Ministry Network.