(Mennonite Church USA)—A new website for youth workers, The Gathering Place, will officially launch at the Mennonite Church USA convention in Kansas City from June 30 to July 5, 2015. Rachel Springer Gerber, Mennonite Church USA denominational minister for youth and young adults, envisions the site as a hub for networking, peer-to-peer resourcing and spiritual formation for leaders.
“The Gathering Place is an interactive website created by youth workers for youth workers,” says Gerber. “Unlike other webpages that simply have information to absorb, The Gathering Place is a site that connects people in real time to provide much more that what basic social networking sites can offer.”
In her role, Gerber has noticed two trends. One is a common sentiment from youth workers that they feel alone in ministry and want to be connected to others to think through best practices and flesh out ideas, but they don’t know where to start.
“Often, time and resources are limited, and people are stretched thin,” she says. “Even our area conferences are stretched to provide seminars and continuing education for our leaders.”
The second trend is that advances in the digital age allow access and opportunities for people from all around the world to connect virtually. The Gathering Place bridges these trends to create an online platform where Anabaptist youth leaders can gather for resourcing, networking with other youth ministry workers and deepening spiritual practices.
Gerber says the site will draw on virtual real-time learning experiences and study circles to help create spaces for conversation and community-building. Each week, youth workers can join a “Think Tank Thursday,” where those present can dream together about ministries that are emerging in their local communities.
In addition, The Gathering Place will offer spiritual direction; personalized coaching for youth ministers and lay leaders (sponsors); forum discussion groups; a blog exploring best practices for youth ministry; webinars; podcasts; and opportunities to meet face-to-face with Scott Roth, assistant pastor at Perkiomenville (Pennsylvania) Mennonite Church, for training about entrepreneurial ministry in local contexts.
The Gathering Place focuses primarily on faith formation, the primary task of youth workers.
“We wouldn’t be doing this work if we didn’t believe in the life-changing power of Jesus Christ,” says Gerber. “And yet we can’t trick ourselves into thinking we can do authentic spiritual formation with our youth if we are not rooted in God’s own love for us. Investing in our own spiritual development is the only way to truly invest in the lives of our youth, and The Gathering Place offers the space and the tools to do just that.”
Gerber believes that no youth worker should ever have to “go it alone.” The Gathering Place provides a cutting-edge way to equip youth leaders — pastors and sponsors — across the church.
“I trust that by God’s grace, The Gathering Place will be just what is needed to equip us for doing 21st-century ministry,” says Gerber.
Youth sponsors, pastors and others who work with youth are invited to visit the Mennonite Church USA Executive Board staff exhibit at KC2015 to learn more and get a preview of the site. In addition, all are invited to attend The Gathering Place launch party in Kansas City, to be held Saturday, July 4, at 4:40 p.m. at the Kansas City Convention Center.
The Gathering Place can be found online.
—Mennonite Church USA staff
Screen capture of the home page of the new website for youth workers, The Gathering Place.