Preparing for then, now, and tomorrow.
When I came back to work at St. James last fall I inherited a trove of resources that had been gathered and collected by previous youth ministers. Some by Amanda Payne before her departure to Nashota, some by Emily Lawrence before the arrival of sweet Rhett, and even some things that I recognized from my previous time working in the ministry. It was an interesting task sorting through, seeing what could be immediately used, what might eventually be used, and what would probably not be beneficial to our ministry going forward.
In that stack of "might eventually be used" I noticed a number of Advent devotional books written by Fr. Erik Willits. They stood out to me because Advent was not far down the calendar, and also because I happened to have met Fr. Erik a few months prior in a chance encounter at Filtered Coffee in Downtown McKinney. I wrapped a few rubber bands around the 20 or so books and put them on the shelf with every intention of pulling them off again in November.
One day this past February I found the banded books right where I had left them.
This year, when planning our teachings for the fall semester of youth I remembered the devotional books and made a point to offer them to students as a way to dive deeper into our discussions on Wednesday nights. Instead of teaching from the books themselves, we planned discussions that would follow the same general weekly topics, hoping to inspire further personal study. We have a handful of young people who took a book and made a commitment to give an honest effort at following along throughout the season.
Our topic for this week was Prepare and (after a short teaching about John the Baptist, the prophets, and Angels who all had a part in preparing for the Nativity) our students were challenged to think about the ways Advent reminds us to join that preparatory work as we ready ourselves and others to receive Christ in our own lives.
An example of this struck me on Tuesday as I was working on a video in the Student Ministry office at the church. I used a few pictures to illustrate this example as I shared with students what this call to prepare can look like for them now.
At the top of the wall in the picture on the left is the start of a tradition I hope to continue in the future. A framed photograph for each high school senior whose graduation has been celebrated by St. James.
On the opposite wall in the midst of notes and calendars just above and to the left of the goofy selfie I added for comedic relief, are a set of names of children at St. James who are not yet a part of the student ministry.
And in the middle of them we find ourselves, joining the work of preparation shown by prophets and angels before, preparing for young people to have an experience with Jesus in the ministry that we are a part of.
I uploaded that video I was working on to a few social media platforms as a preview to one of our planned themes for our spring semester. We are calling our Wednesday evening gatherings "Youth" and want to challenge students to see it as a vital part of their week and make sure they see it as someplace they belong.
This cultivation of community is a continuation of the work that has been done by those students and leaders who have been here in the past. It is hard to study the person of John the Baptist without acknowledging the prophets who came before him and those who followed after, and it is just as hard for us to have a healthy ministry without recognizing and being thankful for those who were here before us, and without preparing the way for those who will come.
This Advent season we not only remember the work of preparation, we join in that work. Remembering the preparation of others who have made it possible to be here, preparing ourselves to continually receive the grace of Jesus, and preparing for those that will follow us in this ministry.