The systems that congregational leaders put into place today will either help youth grow in faith to transform the world or nudge them to step away from the church and their faith, Chris Wilterdink, of Discipleship Ministries, told the people of the Baltimore-Washington Conference during the Laity Session June 1. Discipleship Ministries is a general agency of The United Methodist Church based in Nashville, Ten..
There are millions of ways to do youth ministry but being intentional in this work is essential. The "why" of the mission, the "what" and the vision, and the "how" of strategy are essential to identify, said Wilterdink, Director of Young People’s Ministries for the denomination. “If you know what kind of disciples you are hoping to form, and how they might change the world, then you will begin to know how to form them in a way that feels like a healthy expression of living a life like Jesus," he said.
Wilterdink outlined three intentional discipleship systems – each of which draws upon the equation: “raw ingredients + organized energy and an organized system + intentional transformation = something new.”
The first system was the Ages and Stages model, dividing youth by their grade level (and spiritual stages like searching, exploring, beginning, growing, and maturing) and then developing resources and activities tailored to each age group in the areas of worship, community, spiritual practices, service and generosity and being Christlike.
How sixth graders experience community or participate in worship is different than how an 11th grader might, he said. Experiences and ministry should be designed with each stage in mind.
The second discipleship system was the Covenant Discipleship model, which draws upon personal and public acts of piety (devotion and worship) and acts of mercy (compassion and justice). Focusing on specific ways to nurture love of God and love of neighbor can help youth live and grow into Christ’s teachings, Wilterdink explained.
The third discipleship system was the WOW model, (https://www.cymt.org/theology-together) which looks at moments in the lives of youth that shock or surprise them and process them through a lens that helps youth see what the culture would say about that moment, to consider God’s perspective, and then align it with one’s faith.
Wilterdink encouraged every youth leader to recognize the spiritual maturity and milestones of growth among the youth of their congregations, to provide opportunities for youth to love God and neighbor, and to create opportunities to practice theology. “It’s not just enough to say you believe something,” said Wilterdink. “You have to put that belief into practice.”
During the Laity Session, Linda Flanagan, the BWC Director of Lay Servant Ministries, introduced six lay people who are living out their faith by completing Certified Lay Ministry modules. The six members of the 2020-2022 Certified Lay Ministries cohort who have completed their CLM training modules are: Deirdre Duda, Margaret Fant, Wilson Parran, Frances Parker, Elanora Stewart, and Dellisa Talley.
Conference Lay Leader Delores Martin celebrated these CLMs and the more than 120 active Certified Lay Minsters in the BWC, along with the lay servants, church and district lay leaders, lay leaders to annual conference, and other laity who bring Christ to life in churches and communities throughout the region and world.
Martin is especially passionate about empowering youth to serve in their churches and the conference. She invited one youth, Cayleigh Martin, to share her story as part of the Laity Session.
A youth at Cokesbury UMC, Cayleigh Martin (no relation to Delores Martin) shared her story of how when she was a younger, she was raised by her grandmother. When she was 10, her grandmother died of a stroke. “I yelled at God,” she said. “But my congregation brought me back to my faith. I saw the love of God through them.” she said.
“Over the years, through faith, my congregation has been with me on this journey. They are my family,” Cayleigh Martin said.
And, she said, they taught her to share her faith with others.
“We have to keep our eyes on Jesus,” Cayleigh Martin said. “We can’t lose sight of what’s really important. … We’re here to show everyone that there is a better way. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.”