How the Texas Conference is Partnering with Congregations to ‘Invest in the Young’

Date Posted: 9/24/2015


Youth/Young Adult Ministry Director Eddie Erwin says the “forecast” for youth ministry across the conference is a good one.
 
When asked who was most influential in their faith formation and vocational ministry choice, a room full of Christian educators and youth workers at St. Pauls UMC, Houston recently shared an array of personal stories that often pointed to youth leaders and teachers from their childhood. One participant at the Texas Conference Christian Educators Fellowship lunch joked that her dad made her attend UM ARMY, under duress, yet after several camps, she felt the call to keep working with youth and does so decades later. The group laughed at another attendee who admitted, “I got into youth ministry when I received a postcard in the mail from the Nominations Committee.” Yet others mentioned special spiritual inspiration coming from confirmation teachers, parents and grandparents, friends, youth directors and even “an aunt and uncle with a station wagon that pulled up in our driveway every Sunday whether I wanted to go to church or not!” Ironically, shared another, “my kids were the ones that brought me back to church.”
 
As the guest speaker at this lunch meeting, Youth/Young Adult Ministry Director Eddie Erwin used this exercise to remind attendees that they are all continuously impacting young people through their vocations, in life changing ways.
 
“In terms of how the Texas Conference is going to be partnering with you to Invest in the Young in the next year and beyond,” he says, “it will be through a number of different pieces ranging from special events to training to leadership development.”
 
Annual Events
“The conference hosts a number of events year after year that will continue to take place, but we will be working to improve them and working on ways to encourage students to have more input going forward,” notes Eddie.
NOVEMBER: The Big Event (6th graders across the conference)
FEB 2016:  Lakeview and Forest Glen camps for middle schoolers
SUMMER: Texas Youth Academy (two-week spiritual formation workshop for sophomores and juniors that apply and get accepted)
 
Training
Eddie says that equipping leaders across the conference will include both nationwide events and local training that focuses on the specific situation of each churches involved.

  • TAC is hosting the Elephant in the Sanctuary event January 16, featuring Kenda Creasy Dean and Mark DeVries who will facilitate new ideas for the new generation, and discuss possible ministry “incubators” to give participants ideas for their congregations. “We aren’t advocating changing the message of the gospel, just presenting it in new and relevant ways,” adds Eddie.
  • Youth Advisory Connection (YAC) is being launched to provide more opportunities for student input in the youth events.  This group will have opportunity is to connect with other youth leaders throughout the connectional and participate in ministry together.
  • Boost Young Adult Connectivity – Explains Eddie, “We want to connect young adults that are in various pockets of the conference to each other in new and constructive ways.”
Eddie acknowledges that each district and church is unique, so the conference will seek to be locally focused on ways to strengthen the connectional bonds. “For example, youth workers in the South district are meeting together on a monthly basis to strengthen relationships and share ideas,” he says. “And the East District just hosted a youth rally with 200 students who now have 199 new friends.”
 
Improving Communication
The conference, under the Center for Congregational Excellence, will be establishing a monthly email newsletter on the first Tuesday of each month, to include what is going on at the conference level and allow churches to publicize their youth rallies, concerts and such that they have planned. “We also communicate via a Youth Twitter account and Facebook,” he adds, “but we are open to new apps or even handwritten letters if that is deemed most effective.”
 
“Our role in the conference office is to help the local church make disciples by being in partnership in that mission,” Eddie explains, showing the group an image of Queen Elizabeth, England’s longest reigning royal family member. “It’s my goal to help boost your staying power in youth ministry to live happily ever after reaching young people, and I will do anything in my power to help.”
 
Eddie shared http://www.umconnector.org as a shortcut for resources with ministry with young people. “Several General agencies have put mission opportunities, events, and ideas in one place to streamline and make it easier on all of us.” Adds Eddie, “Not everyone these days has a grandma reading to them from the Bible as might have been your experience,” he says. “Let’s consider how to pour into these new generations – together.”