Hello People

Got an email from one of the staff at Valencia asking for an introductory article for their May newsletter.
I decided to play spoiler and just post it anyway on my blog.
Mainly because with all the packing and transition stuff to take care, I have nothing substantial to blog about (not that my posts are ever substantial…)

Hello Valencia UMC,

What in the world have you gotten yourselves into? I am sure that many of you will be asking that very question as we begin our journey together. When you begin to ask yourself that question, I advise you to email all your complaints to the Rev. John Shaver, the DS and the SPRC, as they are responsible for bringing me here. Oh, I guess God is on that list too, but I don’t know how you would email God. (Let me know if you figure out how.)

I have known to be offensive when speaking the words God has placed in my heart. But I take solace in the fact that whenever Jesus spoke, riots almost broke out. I’d figure if I ain’t rousing y’alls feathers, I’m not doing something right.

I’m half joking, of course. I’m not bad as I just made myself sound. (Or maybe I am.) But if I do offend you or upset you, really, the burden is on you. Why? Because you have to forgive me. Jesus says so! =)

The United Methodist Church spent over 20 million dollars on a campaign called ReThink Church (while I like the campaign, I feel that the money could’ve been spent on better things. Why not use that 20 million dollars to plant new churches that approach ministry in different ways instead of the conventional “church”? People don’t want to join an institution, they want to join a movement. But I digress). Going along with the thinking of ReThink Church, let us apply that to our youth ministry.

What would our youth ministry look like if we approached it as a church plant, rather than a group of kids gathering to play games and hang out?

That is (and always has been) my vision and goal: to make a youth group more into a youth church; to focus on discipleship over entertainment (and hopefully you’ll join me in phasing out the name “youth group” and replacing it with either “Youth ministry” or “Youth church.” Whichever rolls off of your tongue smoother).

The Valencia United Methodist Church exists to: Invite people, Nurture them with Christ’s love and the word of God and Send them out to serve others. With a similar thought, I see the Youth Ministry of VUMC existing to: Love God, Love Others, Serve (and repeat). All of our “programs” and ministries I envision to fall under those three categories: Love God (youth centered worship), Love Others (small group ministries, fellowship) and Serve (missions, outreach) and repeat (…we repeat).

Too many UMCs have underestimated the power of young people in their churches for various reasons ranging from “the kids don’t want to learn about God, they’d rather play games” to “we just want to hire someone to keep the youth out of our way.” Let us be reminded that the Bible is filled with God using young people to fulfill God’s mission (…Mary, anyone?). God did that during the times of Bible and God continues to call and use young people for God’s mission. (I always joke that God calls on younger people because younger people are less prone to say, “We’ve never done it that way!!!!!!!!!”)

We’re going to hit many bumpy roads. There’s going to mistakes and failures here and there. Bruises and bumps. But the exciting thing is, we’re in this together! We’re going to be moving with God leading ahead of us, God pushing us from behind when we need the support and encouragement, God looking down on us with loving and protecting eyes, God walking next to us and God carrying us when we feel like we can’t move any more. You, the youth, me and God, we’re in it together. And whatever we may feel that is impossible, let’s remember the words, “With God, all things are possible.”

It’s going to be an exciting journey. And through it all, I do hope that you ask “What have we gotten ourselves into?” And I’ll look at you in the eyes and simply say, “God’s mission.”

So, roll up your sleeves and let’s get ready to sweat and get our hands dirty for the sake of God and God’s mission. There’s a lot of work ahead of us. But you’re not alone. We’re never alone. May God be with us every second and every step of our journey together.

You ready? I think I am…

With all the Grace and Aloha my heart can possibly contain,
Joseph

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