I am very pleased to announce that we have hired Joleen George as our new Director of Youth Ministries. Joleen will begin her fulltime duties on February 1 and we believe she is just the kind of person who will succeed greatly in youth ministry. She is highly energetic, an extremely hard worker, diligent and faithful, and her enthusiasm is infectious. Joleen is a 2015 graduate of Huntingdon College and may be known to some of you as she has worked in our nursery for the past four years. She is a lifelong Episcopalian, growing up in Vincent, Alabama, and has attended numerous Camp McDowell events over the years. She has been serving as an intern with our Youth Advisors this past semester and our youth members are very excited that she will be their new leader.
Having a skilled and enthusiastic Director of Youth Ministries in place makes many things possible. It is important to realize, however, that such a leader needs the buy-in and participation of the youth and parents, as well as the entire parish, if our program is to be as successful as we all think it should be. Over the years I’ve heard comments from parents which allow me to address what I think is the real purpose of our Youth Groups.
Years ago a parent said to me: “None of my children’s friends go to Youth Group.” My response was: “That’s one main reason we have Youth Group, to expand your child’s friend base.” The typical plight of the adolescent is that he or she basically has the same group of school friends from 1st to 12th grade. They get judged by their peers to be one particular way and it’s hard for them to break out of that classification. Cliques are very dangerous for the typical adolescent and the various in-crowds fiercely categorize classmates. In Youth Group cliques are not permitted. Here students learn that every person in the room is a valuable child of God. We treat everyone with equal respect and hold each other accountable for how we treat others. It happens every year that, as others are treated respectfully, a new group of friends is made. If you or your child’s friends aren’t coming here to Youth Group, regular attendance will produce another group of friends in addition to the school or sports friends. Here participants learn to be true friends rather than acting out a role.
Occasionally I will hear: “Other churches’ Youth Groups are more fun.” That’s basically not true because I hear other churches reporting that ours is more fun. But there is an insidious mindset out there among youth and parents, that of wanting the most entertaining Youth Group around. Having fun is a basic requirement of a successful Youth Group but every year a young person will note that what they most enjoy about our Youth Group is an event or series of conversations they have been part of that deepened their experience of God and their faith. We are not here to entertain exclusively. We’re here to expand minds and hearts. We’re here to transform lives. We’re here to pursue our God-given responsibility to help those in need and to treat all members of society with love and respect.
One comment I hear from students is, “I have so much homework and so many extracurricular activities that I just can’t come.” I’ve even heard: “I’m trying to build my resume for college.” By the way, if you really want to build a resume, attending Youth Group and learning to be a leader in that environment turns the heads of admission officers a lot more than school extracurricular activities. Colleges look for well-balanced students. When teenagers tell me about their busy lives it gives me a chance to talk with them about priorities and balance in their lives. What can be more important than their church involvement? Sadly, we raise children with skewed priorities. We teach them to be consumers of products which will make them more immediately popular. Youth Group is the perfect place to learn how to question that model. Youth Group is a place were teenagers can learn to serve others rather than just expect systems to serve them. We help them form a foundation for their relationship with God. What possibly can be more important than that?
And of course Youth Group is a place to have fun and learn to be less inhibited, freer and more of who God has created us to be naturally. Teenagers are surrounded by peers who calculate every move they make in order to be more popular or better perceived by others. Rare is the place where they learn to be themselves. That happens at Youth Group week-in and week-out. Those who make themselves part of the group by continuing to show up grow in confidence, wisdom, maturity, and empathy.
Joleen joins our staff with the promise of engaging our youth in remarkable ways. Through her own gifts and amazing programs offered in the Episcopal Church, our youth will learn about themselves and Christ’s love for them. They will learn about being called to serve. So be invited and come. Like many invitations from our Lord, the world is made a better place when we participate fully. As Joleen starts anew, perhaps you will too with your renewed attendance and faithfulness.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.
Annual Meeting – January 22
At our Annual Meeting we will elect 7 Vestry Members for a 3 year term. The nominees are:
Absentee ballots may be obtained at the Church Office and cast at any time prior to the meeting.