Youth ministry for the digital age

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The youth group at St. Aidan Anglican Church in Moose Jaw, Sask. Photo: Jennifer Johnson
Luke Johnson is the youth minister at St. Aidan Anglican Church in the diocese of Qu’Appelle. Photo: Linday Korthuis

One night, Luke Johnson remembers, the St. Aidan Anglican Church youth group was holding their final meeting of the year. The meeting was a casual one, and Johnson told the group he would just pray to wrap up the evening. “This one kid, who’s not from an Anglican church, said, ‘Wait, what? Aren’t we going to sing the Lord’s Prayer and say that ‘Glory to God’ thing that we say?’ ”

Johnson was surprised at the insistence, and led the group in a compline (evening prayers). “After doing the Lord’s Prayer and The Doxology, most of the kids had tears in their eyes, because these words that we’d said week after week after week to each other took on a kind of corporate meaning…it just made it very profound for them, I think.”

Johnson, the youth minister of St. Aidan Anglican Church in Moose Jaw, Sask., diocese of Qu’Appelle has spent the past five years creating liturgical resources for use in youth ministry, and disseminating them through a website called GetLiturgized.

The aim is to provide youth ministry leaders with liturgical resources to engage young people. The site now has 28 complines, 48 discussion-based studies, and lists of spiritual practices and Bible-based activities available to anyone with just a few clicks.

With an educational background in biblical studies, focused on biblical languages, youth ministry was not the path Johnson had been envisioning for himself. “When my church approached me to start the youth ministry about five years ago, I was a little shocked by it. I told them, ‘I’m trained in biblical exegesis. I’m deeply introverted. And you want me to be the person that’s in the room with all the young people?’ ”

In a diocese with no other long-term youth ministries and unable to find quality materials online, he found himself lacking resources. He began writing studies for the youth.

Johnson took the group through in-depth studies of the books of Revelation and Exodus. He also developed a 10-minute compline prayer with youth in mind.

Many youth, especially those who come from families not connected to church, don’t know how to pray, says Johnson. “I struggled for two years with, how do you get a bunch of teenagers to pray? And it didn’t go well for the first couple of years. There was a lot of awkward silence…over that time, I experimented a lot and came up with the formula that I use now for compline construction,” he says. “I’ve found, even a bit weirdly, that the unchurched kids are the ones who connect most deeply with it, because this is prayer to them.”

Johnson, who is a web developer, soon began putting the materials he wrote online. “I felt kind of a compulsion to put it out somewhere.” He wanted to create resources that were easy for others to use and adapt for their own church groups.

The project has been the recipient of an Anglican Foundation of Canada grant of $10,000 for the past two years, which has allowed Johnson to build the website platform strategically.

“The Foundation funds for impact,” says executive director Canon Judy Rois, and in the case of GetLiturgized, “We saw this as being a very accessible resource for youth across the country.”

Rois says the project caught the attention of the board of directors for its innovation and creativity.

This innovation comes not just through the site’s web-based format, but through the liturgy itself, says Rois. “In traditional liturgical books, you open it up, and the service is there.”

The complines provided by GetLiturgized, however, allow for more flexibility. “You don’t have to conform to a strict, set pattern. There’s room to tailor it to one’s audience, one’s culture, one’s social setting…it’s less top-down, more hands-on,” says Rois.

All resources are available free on the GetLiturgized website, and can be accessed by anyone. Johnson sees technology as a way for churches and ministries to reach out. “Connection is at the heart of it. You want to be connecting with people, and not just in an online form.”

Rois is excited to see innovation in the church focused around youth. “They’re the ones that are going to push the church forward, and they’re pushing it forward in completely new ways than generations before.”

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Joelle Kidd
Joelle Kidd joined the Anglican Journal in 2017 as staff writer. She has worked as an editor and writer for the Winnipeg-based Fanfare Magazine Group and as freelance copy editor for Naida Communications.

1 COMMENT

  1. I read this article with great interest
    And will forward it on to our youth leaders. Just last year I was in Moose JAw at the Anglican Church, I think it was St. Aidens…I was visiting with Bryce and Birdie Boan and I believe I saw this young man in action with
    The youth group. I was very heartened and impressed✝️ It gives we older generation such hope for the future ?Congratulations for this innovative work and may it continue ? Beth Truant-St. Andrews Anglican Church in Trail, B.C

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