A Call to See and Be Near

photo by Sheryl Mareae Reily, Getty Images

An infected person with a glowing green hand touches others who then contract glowing green hands, and who each pass along the glowing green infection to another and then another. This is often how we believe suffering operates. We implicitly assume it’s passed on like an infection, like the green hand.

Youth ministry has historically been constructed around fun and entertainment, assuming we need these things to get young people to come and participate. If they come and participate we can get them to become members of the church, to have faith, to be responsible, that is, to do what we want them to do. In youth ministry we have often seen our relationships as tools for positive influence. But this may prevent us from being with adolescents in their raw human existence, in the midst of their suffering for an identity, in the midst of suffering broken families, disappointment and fear. We might assume, because youth ministry has tried to be an influential commercial for Christian faith, that any suffering from one will infect the group. In other words: Don’t have the depressed kid come on the trip or she’ll infect the group with her suffering. Don’t ask him about the divorce of his parents because what then would I say? Don’t put two and two together that your most committed leader may be the victim of abuse because that may remind you of your own past.

Too often relational youth ministry avoids suffering, and therefore lacks the boldness and bravery to enter into the full humanity of adolescents. But suffering doesn’t work like the glowing green hand of infection. When suffering is shared, often its power to strangle is broken. Things may remain painful and difficult, but when we’re no longer alone, suffering feels (and is) no longer life-threatening. The power of suffering to determine our destiny is broken when suffering is shared in relationship. We may then argue that the heart of relational youth ministry is actually shared suffering.

Youth 2008 : Nursing in India

INDIA. Those who have been there understand – they know the arduous task of conveying the tangible experiences of India. The overwhelming number of people, the colours, the sounds (the constant car horn honking, animal noises and religious services broadcast on loud-speakers in the larger cities), the smells, and especially the warmth of the people, stretched my senses to places non-existent in North America.

Youth 2008 : Sharing their Gifts

THERE HAVE BEEN ceilidh's and sub lunches, pampered chef fundraisers and congregational games nights at three churches in the Presbytery of London this year – all events to raise money for an exciting mission trip adventure for youth within our presbytery. At the end of July, 20 young people and eight adult leaders from four churches will be travelling to beautiful North Sydney, N.S., to lead a Vacation Bible School program. In the afternoons, we hope to serve the North Sydney community in other ways, by engaging in meaningful community mission projects. In the evenings, we plan on "singing for our supper" at local Presbyterian churches – a wonderful way to build bridges with our east coast brothers and sisters in Christ.