As a youth pastor, I try to take time to hear what music our youth are listening to so I know what kind of messages are being planted in their hearts and resonating with their spirits. As I was listening to an album someone had shared with me, I was struck by a line in a song: “My grandmama always told me to pray, but she never taught me how”. That line ran through my mind the rest of the day and I kept asking myself: Is this true? Do I ask our youth to pray without really teaching them how? If I think back on my own life, I know that I was taught how to pray, but truly finding confidence in my prayer life came with time, practice, and good shepherds who walked with me as I learned. That realization, for me, was one of the many that set us up to create a map of each child’s journey through JCBodyshop!
As we looked at the eight years we have our students at JCB and what we would hope for them as they leave youth group to continue their faith journey, a vision was born! On Sunday mornings, our fifth and sixth grade students will participate in a theology class, focusing on the Apostle’s Creed and the Christian Year. We found that this age group is not only so very hungry for theology, but also the average age of a child who is baptized in our church. This made it seem like the perfect age for such a class! The theology class will be enhanced by a tiny group mentor who will serve as an additional guide in their journey. After finishing this class, they will move onto a seventh and eighth grade Bible study. This class will survey the entire Bible to not only build knowledge of the word, but to grow comfort-ability with it and hunger for it. Following this, they will move to a spiritual practices class as a freshman and sophomores. They will not only learn about the many different inner and outer spiritual practices that can shape our soul, but will also grow in experience with them. Our hope is for them to find a sacred rhythm for their life they can carry with them. Finally, our students will spend their final two years at JCB circling back around to serve, even as a tiny group mentor in the theology class they themselves once took. We know that one of the best ways to learn is to teach, which will help solidify all the theological knowledge that they once gained in even greater ways! In addition to Sunday mornings, students can also participate in life groups on Sunday evenings. This time is structured to be more like a small group, as we emphasize the building of relationship within the life group and we study different topics.
It is the combination of what we do on Sunday mornings paired with what happens on Sunday nights that truly gets us excited for what lies ahead for our youth. God does not wait for children to be adults before He can use them and call them His church- God is in the business of moving, challenging, transforming, and bettering His church TODAY through the lives of our youth. I pray that we might continue to ask how we might unleash the power God has alive inside of every single youth today and guide them to be faithful servants in His kingdom for their entire life.
- Elizabeth Scull