First Third Conversations

Makin’ a list, checking it twice

By Andy Sahl

Sunday mornings can sometimes be a scramble in our youth ministry.  Our (Episcopal) Parish has a large youth center that gets used for a number of events every weekend.  This means we do a lot of setup on Sunday mornings.  Sometimes that setup can lead to us being distracted from being fully present from our youth and adults because we’re pulling a table out of the closet for donuts or setting up  the projection when we could be chatting with someone.

Inspired by my reading of The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, we developed a Sunday morning checklist that has become a bit comical but we use it every week.  The checklist includes things like making sure there is a ball in the foosball table and checking the sound settings for the videos we’re showing.  We like to add silly things to our growing Sunday morning checklist just to make things fun.    While we use our Sunday morning checklist every week, we also like to pick on ourselves for having such a contentious attitude (not typical of me or our youth staff).

We borrowed our checklist idea when on retreat with our formation team this summer.  We were listing areas that we wanted to focus on with our Parish faith formation and we landed on three themes: help people grow in Bible knowledge, Episcopal heritage and practices, and their sense of belonging.  As our team processed how we might help our community grow in these areas we committed to addressing each of these elements in every gathering we do.  Every Bible study, dinner, or retreat (“event” for lack of a better word) would have a chance for connection with others (belonging), a significant use of the Bible, and a connection back to our Episcopal traditions (easily accomplished by pulling out the Book of Common Prayer). 

We have grown to call this our trilogy.  It’s too early to know the outcomes of this focus, but it feels good to have this guide that helps focus our gatherings.  It wasn’t until I ready Terri’s post earlier this week that it became clear that in the development of our checklist we are essentially focusing on providing all three elements; Scripture, tradition, and Experience as we have discerned the need for our context. 

I don’t know that scripture, tradition, and experience have been framed as presented in a single “event” before, but it works well for our context. 

So what might be on your checklist for each “event”?  What do you want young people to experience for at every gathering under the general headings of Scripture, Tradition, and Experience? 

Join the conversation on Facebook.com/FirstThird!

Andy Sahl is the Director of Youth Ministry at Saint Michael and All Angles Episcopal Church in Dallas Texas and has been serving in youth ministry for 15 years.  Andy is passionate about developing authentic community and families through the ministries he helps lead.  You can often find Andy out for a run with his dog Charles, sharing a cup of coffee with a friend at a local café, or at a favorite restaurant with his family. You can follow him on Twitter (@andysahl).

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