Young people navigate change as part of their daily life. Relationships come and go quickly with new classes, new teams and jobs. Rehab completely changes friendships. Decisions to continue a sport often include deciding which level to play and whether to continue in college. Young people face death of friends from suicide, car accidents or illness.
In this complex world, we remember God’s love is unchanging. Youth ministry is a critical arm of the church, helping our young people know they belong, have meaning and are beloved by God. But youth ministry doesn’t end there! It equips our young people to have the capacity to change, to own their change power and to know when to rest in the arms of God. We can learn to navigate the change we face as a church by learning from our youth ministry.
With the youth I work with, I use the acronym PRESS and encourage youth to press on. Not plowing through like nothing has happened, but drawing on the resources of faith and faith practices to move ahead. PRESS encourages youth to be positive and practice joy. That may begin with a mood to help us understand what we are feeling. Youth are encouraged to cultivate relationships with friends of all ages from older youth to older adults. In order to stay engaged in faith, youth need to learn faith practices. Mindfulness helps youth stay present in the moment and can begin to move them to a place of centering prayer. Seek invites young people to look for great opportunities that come with change. What new opportunity might be lurking around the corner that can bring life? Finally, in serving we find meaning and purpose through altruism, belonging and serving something higher than one’s self. PRESS helps boost the capacity for change in young people who face it on a regular basis.
Unprecedented change this year has challenged the church to consider our own change power. The first step for navigating change is realizing that change is inevitable. Change is constant. Change is not going to be a one-time event this fall. The change we are facing as a church after this pandemic year will be ongoing and span several years. More than ever before, churches need to understand and strengthen their capacity for change. It is the right time.
2 Corinthians 5:2a-4 reminds us: “Look, now is the right time! Look, now is the day of salvation! We don’t give anyone any reason to be offended about anything so that our ministry won’t be criticized. Instead, we commend ourselves as ministers of God in every way. We did this with our great endurance through problems, disasters and stressful situations.”
With great change comes great opportunity. We have been through some long days, problems and disasters — and now is the right time. Our first step is a new posture. We can utilize our tool for creating resilience in young people to help the church navigate change. We need to press on with a new posture. Celebrate the joy of being church. Celebrate the joy we find in following Jesus. Relationships will be critical. It is time to connect your seasoned leaders with the next generation of leaders. Cultivate relationships with those outside the main circle. Look to our Gen Z young adults who are ready to contribute as part of the team and may have new insights. Engage in a regular faith practice as a church. Learn the practice of centering prayer, including it in worship and meetings. Knowing your purpose, begin to dream how you can live out your mission and ministry. Finally, serve. Keep serving beyond yourself. Listen to those in your community for their greatest needs, ask and join in partnership of service.
As the church takes a deep look at improving our capacity for change, we are building a more flexible and resilient body of Christ. Most of all, remember we are in this together, held together in the powerful and undeniable love of God.
Michelle Thomas-Bush is associate pastor for youth and their families at Myers Park Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and founder of Big Ideas in Youth Ministry.