Whoever welcomes the Children
As we prepare to celebrate Halloween at First Presbyterian Valpo’s annual Trunk or Treat, I feel a sense of excitement in the air. After all, this is the one time we can see Batman, Spiderman, Ninja Turtles, Ariel, Princesses, Captain America, and Wonder Woman in the same parking lot. Oh, and there is a lot of candy to satisfy our craving for sugar (in moderation, of course). What an outstanding event the church hosts for the public each year!
While the focus is on making the children happy, this wonderful event also reminds me of our responsibility to connect with this next generation of young people. Yes, this should be an initiative for all of society, but engaging our youth is a cornerstone of a church’s ministry. Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me,” (Matthew 18:5).
First Pres Valpo is blessed with the youth leadership of Ken Crews, who engages the next generation in a myriad of ministry activities through the Presbys and Christian Education programs. As the pastor of Bethel Presbyterian in Union Mills and First Presbyterian of Portage, the hope is to develop and implement youth programs with the success that Ken has in Valpo. Whether it’s a mission trip to West Virginia or Cincinnati, or sending care packages to college students, the youth at First Pres Valpo are finding valuable ways to serve people. Family Game nights and First Friday Friends have also proven to be impactful in connecting youth of various ages in a Christian environment. Hats off to Ken and the youth at First Pres Valpo for setting a great example for other churches and faith communities!
First Presbyterian of Portage has introduced an afterschool youth program for grades 6-12. Bolstered by a youth center initiative, leaders of the program are spreading the word and looking for creative ways to attract youth and foster a setting where young people can share friendship and fellowship with one another. The next generation is the key to ministry in the 21st century and as adults we are encouraged to embrace change. The ministry programs our current youth enjoy are likely to look significantly different from the ministry activities that many of us enjoyed while growing up in earlier decades. The key for all of us – youth, young and older adults – is to listen to one another. Many creative ideas come from thoughtful discussions with our youth.
Cross-generational ministry is a gift from God. We can and will learn from one another. Another important aspect is to find leadership roles for everybody who desires such a role. Patience is certainly a virtue and comes in quite handy in developing any new program. Personally, I am excited to see how this next generation creates and connects others with Jesus Christ. I am willing to learn from them, as well as help guide them through wonderful examples like Ken Crews.
So remember, as you’re passing out candy and complimenting the creative costumes at Trunk or Treat or Trick or Treat, God has blessed us with a great opportunity to listen, learn and connect with a new generation – a generation with a youthful eye to new and exciting ministries!
Pastor Bill Rogers