So I start back into youth ministry tonight. I have to say I have never fully left. I have continued to do camps, as I love that side of it.
I spent about 8 years doing direct youth leadership. I was the assistant youth director of Dunwoody UMC in Atlanta, Georgia during my days in seminary. That was a lot of fun. We watched the Sr. High youth group go from 8 youth, down to three and then back up the more than 25 in the two and a half years there. The big kicker was watching the Jr High group of 6-8 graders go from 20 to 75 per night. That was a big growth spurt. I then took a job at Santa Barbara FUMC as the Youth and Young Adult director and was again blessed with a large staff, like Dunwoody did with volunteers. We had 17 seniors graduate my third year at Santa Barbara and had a hard time recovering from that, but still managed to build from the bottom up with new sixth graders. Now at Del Rosa UMC in San Bernardino we have about 16 active youth in a single youth program of 7-12 grades. I have done a few programs with them over the past year and a half and coming in December I am the youth director and the pastor...a full-boat to be sure. My hope is that we can facilitate the move to a cluster youth group of three of the local churches, and build and teach the leadership. This is the big reason for making the shift in leadership, to work fully toward a cluster youth group, bringing everyone onto the same page, and doing that from the top, with training and leadership development, as well as finding the spaces for the youth to understand the larger United Methodist Church.
I remember well the story of many of my youth in Santa Barbara, and even at Dunwoody, who claimed they really wished we had done more with other churches and with the conference and district earlier, including and especially camps. They felt like they had been left out of some great club. I think that is a great word for the UMC, especially in trying times like these with the Judicial Council Decisions. Youth just want to be with one another, and to learn and fellowship with God.
Take note folks, this can be fun. So, back to work...