Dear Gary Youth families,
Last winter, through conversations with families and students, staff, and much prayer, we felt the time was right to split middle school and high school ministries into separate meetings. Since then, I (Alexa) have been praying and planning what that would look like. It’s always hard to know exactly is best—what day, what time, and most importantly,what best fits the felt need of our high school students.One thing I always knew is that I wanted it to be warm and inviting, focused not so much on knowing the right things but instead on how students are living out their faith. At this point, most of our high schoolers have received so much Biblical knowledge and teaching through Sunday School, Confirmation, Midweek, our summer Bible Studies, etc. I am passionate about that teaching and value it highly; I also believe that high school is the prime time for students to transfer what they have been taught to how they are living out their faith. This means they need something that looks and feels different from what they have received before, and over the last few weeks it became obvious to me God has something in store for us that does looks different. And it is so exciting that I felt we should begin as soon as we can, which is why, in October, we are changing high school ministry to a new format that will better fit the needs of our high schoolers, and will better surround them with a community of support in living out the life we have prepared them to live.
Much of the inspiration for this change simply comes from the example set by Jesus. When I looked to Jesus for inspiration for our ministry, I was drawn to how often he gathered his followers and friends around a table to share a meal, bringing them together in community before sending them back out into the world to share the Gospel. In Scripture, we find two of Jesus’ final acts of ministry centered around a meal—first at the Last Supper, where he spent the night before the cross around the table with his disciples. And after his resurrection, we find Jesus at a fire on the beach, where he cooked breakfast and fed his friends. Even in his last moments on earth, he valued eating together as a way to be discipled and to gather. And then scripture tells us that then the first Christians, in the years following Jesus’ departure, gathered in homes and around dinner tables for their church. I like to believe that’s because it felt like a natural continuation of what they did so often with Jesus. For them, Communion was not simply bread and wine, but it was part of an entire meal shared together. There is something sacred in eating together—the way it unites us as a different kind of family, a family centered by our faith in and love for Jesus. I want our students to know they are inheriting the story of Jesus and the first Christians by gathering together around a meal.
But what will we do when we gather for a meal? For this, I turned to our Methodist history for inspiration. In the beginning of the Methodist Church, our beloved John Wesley tapped into a truth that stands today—how vital it is to surround Christians with an authentic community of support.And so, he created groups that gathered regularly in host homes to worship and most importantly, to share about their lives and be encouraged in their faith. Every time they gathered, they would take turns answering one question, “How is it with your soul?” John Wesley knew that a true community of support means sharing our lives with one another. And we are going to revive this old Methodist tradition—a bit restructured to best fit our context—but designed with the same end goal with our high schoolers. Every time we gather, our conversation will be focused on one topic—how it is with our souls. Or better put for today, how our lives are going, and how we are doing in our relationship with God.
For now, I’m calling these gatherings Word & Table, because that’s what they will be—gathered around a table to share a meal together while centeringour community around the truths of scripture and the kind of life it calls us to lead. We’ll gather twice a month to share a meal, catch up on our lives, and spur one another on in our faith with the Word. As I’ve been praying for our students and dreaming about what the future of our ministry could be, I was so drawn to the vision of a table and a meal together. It’s warmand inviting, but more importantly, it’s being family. I’m thrilled that our high school ministry will embody this year's theme for our congregation, Becoming Family, in such a tangible and unique way.
Practically speaking, here is what the next few weeks look like for our high school ministry:
Beginning October 2, we will shift to meet every other week for dinner at a different host home from 6:30-8:00. A calendar will go out soon with homes and addresses for W & T through Christmas. We will not have Sunday nights at the church when Word & Table does not meet for a variety of reasons. I would love the opportunity to talk more about that with parents and students in person! What I will say is this: most of those Sundays when Word and Table does not meet, something else is being offered instead—sometimes a Gary Youth event, like the Turkey Shuffle in November or the Christmas party, and other times an opportunity to serve within the life of the church. Whether it’s Trunk or Treat or Christmas Sharing, this is a call for students to actually live out their faith at the church, just like we talk about when we gather together.
Every time Word & Table meets, not only will the adults who open up their homes be present with high schoolers, but we will also have a team of adults who will be present to cultivate intentional conversation with students around the table. The team (Aileen Termini, Anna Erickson, Tanner and myself) are eager to begin this new chapter with students and to see how God uses these gatherings in a new season of Gary Youth. Please join me in prayer as we begin this new journey, keep an eye out for the calendar of locations, and as always, let me know if you have and questions or feedback you’d like to share with me as parents!
Your sister in Christ,
Students are vital participants in the life and ministry of Gary Church. Whether it is through Sunday morning education opportunities, Wednesday evening fellowship, or mission and outreach projects, Gary Youth strives to be a place where students can be real, challenge one another, and grow in faith.
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