First Third Conversations

The Spirit Creator: Sowing Seeds of Hope through Environmentally Focused Children, Youth and Family Ministry

By Keith Long, MDIV CYF graduate of Luther Seminary

Something is amiss in how we engage and educate young people in their lives of faith. It is disheartening to witness the disappearance of youth and families from the church. Decreased attendance leads to less risk-taking, which in my opinion, leads to apathy and boredom. As a result, I think we have lost a tremendous amount of passion in passing on the faith and what matters most in our lives as Jesus followers. Conviction and belief ought to be producing passion. If we want to see more passion, I believe we’re being called to fuel their fire in a different way.

We are all linked together through our relationship with the earth

Forming a stronger commitment to the world’s needs and the faith identity of young people could take several kinds of approaches. My vision for leadership focuses around leadership development, experiential learning and stewardship of the earth and her resources as a framework for mission in the life of children, youth and family ministry. One of the ways we are all linked together is through our relationship with the earth. As Christians we are inspired and guided by the Spiritus Creator who was present in the beginning and is present now, continually creating to this day, both physically and spiritually, springing forth vitality wherever he goes and drawing us away from the destruction of sin and death.

One of the biggest hindrances facing our young people and families today is an insatiable desire to stay busy and acquire more. It has become so easy to exercise our immense amount of freedom through consumerist tendencies which stress a need more activities or stuff. The concept of consumerism is about excess and is often only a matter of time before it spills over into overconsumption. Unfortunately, American consumerism and overconsumption are making profound negative impacts upon our local ecosystems, especially those living in poverty.

Co-creators with God

The church is continually called to serve, respect and love our neighbors – from the rich to the poor. Respecting and loving another human life at the most base level is to allow them freedom to access basic natural resources needed to sustain and preserve life. The church - the body of Christ on earth then has an opportunity to demonstrate that respect and love for our neighbor is about living in harmony with creation and resisting the temptation to give in to our sense of entitlement to more than our fair share. As "co-creators" with God we have a responsibility to lay down the seeds of a new heaven and a new earth and live into Jesus’ incarnational witness, recognizing that as a church, we are enjoined to one another through the interconnectedness of the Triune God. So instead of making church just another thing to do, another burden to squeeze into an already overbooked life, I think we might find that living for others is less of a burden and more a freedom.

Therefore the future of congregational ministry depends greatly on creating opportunities for youth and young adults to form meaningful relationships, to take action, to make informed consumerist decisions, and to assume leadership roles in the church. After all, youth groups and young adult ministries possess the creativity, enthusiasm and cultural insight needed to help congregations expand their vision for mission with renewed energy and passion. Thanks be to God we are empowered by the Spirit Creator to do this. And this Spirit Creator is busily unifying us through koinonia as we witness to the cross and Jesus’ coming to us and for us, again and again, to love, accompany and transform one another in abundant life together as we seek the rights and justice of all creation.

Read Keith's full paper:

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