The Extravaganza!

Today’s post is written by Travis Baker, our Youth Minister.

Each year, over the last weekend of January, Youth Ministers and volunteers across the ELCA come together in one place to think, discuss and reflect on our various congregational contexts and what it looks like to work with children, youth and families. This year, over 1000 people gathered in Detroit to take part in worship, mass gatherings, workshops, and roundtable discussions, all centered on the theme of Story. The idea of Story has become sort of a buzzword in youth ministry the past few couple of years. Many of us, as we’ve gathered and talked and dreamed about the direction youth ministry seems to be taking, have been caught up in the idea of story. What stories are our congregations telling? What stories are our youth telling? Is there a disconnect between those two or are they on the same page? And, perhaps most importantly, what is the story we are being called to in the days and months ahead?

As I spend my time reflecting on the ideas presented and the conversations engaged in over the weekend in Detroit, I can’t help but continue to reflect on the work of our youth ministry in the language of story. We all share our stories with others. Our worship on Sunday morning is a great gathering in the midst of an incredible and long-told story that has us as players on a grand stage. When we gather over meals or water coolers or wander through the hallways of our schools, we are constantly speaking in terms of story. This is a major facet in how our community is forged.

Yet we often continue to march on without a second thought as to what story we are actually telling. Each step we take, each person we come into contact with, each prayer we offer up, becomes a part of the story that we tell with our life. And that story is intricately linked with the stories that others tell around us, to the point where we often find that our story shares many similarities with others. And as I reflect on this, I think of our Confirmation class, which has been telling and retelling the stories of our faith all year long, through many different mediums. Week after week they are challenged to share of their own stories and the intersection their story has with the grand story God is telling alongside of us. Then they relate these stories through puppet shows, through art they create, through skits and songs and poems that they then present to the rest of their fellow Confirmands. And as we work through the year, we as adults working and learning beside our youth find that the stories of our faith have so much more depth to them than previous thought, all because we have found where our stories exist inside the stories of God’s people as related in the scriptures.

So as we journey through our days, let us keep our eyes open to the stories that are being told around us. Let us look at others and catch a glimpse of their stories so we can see the world through their eyes. Let us find new ways to share of our own stories and, above all, let us remember that we are part of a story that is bigger than any of us but is not possible to be told without us.