The Avengers approach to youth ministry

2015 10 5 Rachel Gerber

Rachel Gerber is the Denominational Minister of Youth and Young Adults and editor of The Gathering Place. She’s looking forward to meeting with you person-to-person at Youth Ministry Council: The Gathering 2016 in Orlando, Florida, January 29-February 1, 2016, or connecting with you virtually throughout the year ahead. Subscribe to The Gathering Place to stay connected with the latest monthly happenings.

Martin Saunders, a youth worker in the UK and contributing blogger for the online magazine, Premier Youthscape, wrote an interesting article connecting the mega-themes of the newest “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” movie to youth ministry.

He writes,

“Thor is swinging his hammer, Iron Man is firing energy beams from his hands and Captain America is throwing his shield around like a boss. Along with a gaggle of other superheroes, they’re fighting off an innumerable legion of robot baddies in, of all places, an old church. This is the glorious finale of ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron,’ 2015’s biggest blockbuster. Now call me sad, but as I watched that incredible scene in the cinema recently, I couldn’t help but think about the parallels with youth ministry. Granted, we’re not called to fight evil robots and none of us are going to turn into an out-of-control green giant when we get angry (as far as I know), but youth ministry is full of local and national heroes, all of us facing a particularly difficult situation right now. So the question is, how are we going to address it: as a series of individuals, trying our hardest to solve the problems directly in front of us, or back to back, arm in arm, working together and for one another?”

And I think he’s on to something…

Are we ready for an age of collaboration?

Youth ministry can often feel pretty isolating – our work is often confined to a segmented population (high school) with very little cross-over to other areas of the church. Granted, youth ministry does have its unique needs, challenges and joys, but I think most people who work in faith formation of youth also realizes that it doesn’t start here.

Faith Formation for our youth doesn’t begin when our graduating eighth-graders go through some wild initiation rituals to enter Mennonite Youth Fellowship. Likewise, faith formation doesn’t end when they walk across the stage wearing a cap and gown.

Parents are the number one influence in the faith development of their youth.

Number one. So how are we as youth workers taking a collaborative approach? Faith formation is most holistically and authentically developed when it is integrated into the whole of the church, where everyone sees themselves as formers of faith, for we all belong to one another.

What does it mean to look outside our little office and four-year windows of time to build bridges and strengthen partnerships with the whole of the church? We’ve got to remember that we can’t do it alone.

Even more so as youth workers, formers of faith, we need to broaden our own horizons. Navigating this ever-changing culture and contextualizing our faith in ways that our youth understand and can make sense of, is no delicate matter.

You need someone who has your back.

Like the Avengers who would have been utterly destroyed in the final epic battle if one decided that they didn’t need the others, we too really do need each other to companion and work together.

Simply put, we are better together.

Didn’t Jesus say that too?

Jesus never sent out his disciples by themselves, but always in pairs.

Even the animals of the Ark knew they couldn’t go at it alone.

And we all know, “Where two or three are gathered together …”

And isn’t the Holy Spirit the greatest super power of all?

If you need more convincing: it is simply more fun to gather and journey along together.

At KC2015 this summer, I was so thrilled to share the news of the official launch of The Gathering Place (TGP), an interactive website for Anabaptist youth leaders for resourcing, spiritual formation and networking. Because like the Avengers, we too declare that when we collaborate, we are greater than the sum of our parts.

This, my friends, is exactly what TGP is all about. It is about bringing you together with others from all over the country (and the world). It’s about developing connection and networking, finding space to ask questions, wrestle with concerns.

In essence, it’s a place to learn and grow with one another.

January 29-February 1, 2016, The Gathering Place will go live to Orlando, Florida, for our annual Youth Ministry Council event!

Our theme this year will be Ministry Matters:  Youth and Real World Theology.

Because as youth leaders, we recognize the various challenges that face our youth every day and the ministry we engage in. This year our gathering will be framed through real-life case studies and we will work together to reflect theologically on what is really going on, where God is, and how to move forward. Participants will be invited to submit their own case studies for discussion. We anticipate topics will include (but are not limited to): busyness and attendance; mental health issues; race/police violence; media/technology; sexuality/teen pregnancy/dating; family dynamics; and other sticky youth ministry situations. Be on the lookout for registration information coming soon!

Folks, youth ministry is not for the faint of heart. But utilizing resources available to you as you engage in ministry brings such joy for the journey, because truly we are better together.