Awakening to the gospel

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(This article first appeared in the October issue of the Anglican Journal. )

Before the inevitable autumn crunch my family escaped to one of the Pacific Gulf Islands for a short holiday. As we meandered through the countryside, slipping in and out of cell coverage, I wondered aloud: “How do people live like this?” And in the same breath, “Isn’t it marvellous?”

Walking through lush forests, it’s impossible not to be awed by trees that are 300, 400 and even 500-plus years old. What’s the youth ministry equivalent?

As I connect with youth ministers across the country, I hear a common refrain: we need a fresh perspective. Youth ministry will not be successful if it’s rooted in the urgent need to save our church from decline. For our ministries to thrive, we need to recover our sense of awe.

When we step back and take a deep breath, we come to understand that there is much at which to wonder. The Rev. Bill Cliff, Huron University College’s chaplain, is fond of saying, “If the gospel isn’t astonishing, you’re not reading it right.”

If we’re going to engage in Christian youth ministry that matters, we need to reawaken our sense of awe, wonder and astonishment. If we are not captivated by the Christian story, how can we expect our children to find it relevant?

Over the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to work with youth workers from across the country to create a resource that will help us become re-enchanted with our story: Trailblazing (trailblazing.anglican.ca). Trailblazing is online theological formation for youth ministry. Whether we’re active in formal youth ministry or simply looking to engage young people more deeply with the Christian faith, this resource is for all of us.

Like my walks through the woods of the Pacific coast, Trailblazing reminds me that I’m part of a much larger story-a story filled with awe, wonder and astonishment. Ours is a story that started long before we were born, and will continue long after we’re gone. Reinvigorated by newfound perspective, I find myself ready to deeply engage with young people once again.

Andrew Stephens-Rennie is a member of the national youth initiatives team of the Anglican Church of Canada.

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Andrew Stephens-Rennie is a member of the national youth initiatives team of the Anglican Church of Canada.

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