From Big Blue Wall to Small White Board

We have received some inquiries as to what is happening with the Big Blue Wall event.  On May 6 Lesli VanMilligen helped us think about “How do we as a community want to support faith formation in our youth ages 10-18?”  This focus question led to lots of ideas which we posted on the wall, categorized and labeled. It was a good start; it was never intended to complete the task.
    Staff took a few further steps at gathering data.  We read some email sent by participants clarifying their views.  We heard from the Meeting House staff about their conversations about the future direction of the Underground.  We surveyed present Immanuel participant families of the Underground. And then we met to discuss all of this and to wonder how to lead through this.  Our goal was not to come up with all the answers, but to wonder together about leading you further in this journey. We took what was on the Big Blue Wall and summarized it on a Small White Board.
    One of the things we noticed was that a lot of the categories on the big blue wall were relationship oriented (mentors, prayer partners, model and encourage, intergenerational, youth input). The items in these categories all seem to suggest that a whole lot of us need to be involved in intentional connection with youth. This is likely the most important guiding principle to our next steps in youth ministry.  We need to work on creating and taking opportunities to be meaningfully engaged with our children and teenagers. Many of us, not just youth leaders. This is a big and exciting challenge, but also a very attainable goal.
    A second area is the question of curriculum – what is being taught? This was one long category on the big blue wall. There are many ideas about curriculum and likely many of them would be helpful.  Part of moving forward is for us as parents, leaders, and community being engaged ourselves in the conversations we believe our youth need to have. So, for example, our Sunday worship themes could be the very things we want to talk about with our youth.
   A third and final area we noted was the area of service, putting faith into action or applying what we believe in our everyday journey.  This was not a large emphasis on the big blue wall in terms of numbers of notes, but we sensed it to be an important part of the forming of faith in our youth.
    Along with these three emphases, we also noted that there were a large number and variety of structure ideas – that is, “how” do we deliver these things.  We feel, this too, needs to be part of a further conversation. Do our present ministries help us deliver relationships, curriculum, and service? Is there a better model?  Our sense was that we need to keep thinking about this together. To that end, we plan to do some intentional evaluation of our present ministries. We also plan to have another gathering with you about all of these things in September.  We believe (and we want to check this with you) that any structural change in ministry would need to grow out of what happens when we intentionally engage in relational ministry. There is no simple catch-all solution. The real solution is all of us engaging together.
    So, in practical terms: we will carry on with the Underground, albeit with more intentional engagement in the process as they hire a replacement for Beth and as they start the next season.  Likewise, our other ministries to children and youth will continue, but we will think together about how else we can do this in a way that helps us all grow in our faith. We will continue to find ways to speak with the youth and in September we will call you together again to carry on this conversation.

~ES