Animate Youth Ministries member Lauren reflects on her efforts to help young people understand their role in society – and the place in it for faith.
Community, meaning a group of people living within the same space, is a word of which I have become increasingly fond during my years working in youth ministry. I say this because I never really understood the word until I was encouraged to put it into action in my own life. Now I challenge other young people to do the same.
Every year the team at Animate works with 10,000 young people, hoping to help them understand more about the faith they have been called to. When we look at how society has become disengaged over the years you can understand the difficulties that arise. Nevertheless, I think we help these youngsters to experience the grace of God's love in numerous ways.
This brings me back to community. These young people, even if only for a few hours, can come to realise the importance of having others around them. We spend time allowing them to recognise the value of others (knowing that every individual has been made for a purpose can sometimes come as a surprise). Having spent three years in this role, I've come to recognise that their self-esteem and beliefs can become quite distant from the life which they live. That is why I feel it's vital for them to understand their true worth.
Since September we have already worked with All Hallows, Penwortham; St Edward's College, Liverpool; St Francis of Assisi Academy, Liverpool; St Mary's, Crosby; and St John Fisher, Wigan. At each school the focus has been on the various themes of 'New beginnings', 'One Body' and 'Strangers to friends' – all of which owe something to community. We begin with activities to encourage the pupils to engage with others within their group whom they wouldn't normally speak to; getting them to work together helps them to see each other's qualities.
As we move through the day we usually introduce a piece of Scripture which the pupils can develop a clear understanding about. Our wish is that they come to realise the power of Christ through the different activities that we run. We as a team try to connect with the youngsters by making our resources and activities as pertinent as we can to the society in which we live. We feel this is necessary, as it allows the students to recognise situations occurring within their own lives.
We also see them gain a clearer understanding of working together – whether that's by helping out a classmate or simply listening to an individual they have struggled to interact with previously. As each day closes, we remind the pupils of all the activities they have undertaken in just a day. We also concentrate on God and the things He has given us. It gives them a chance to stop for a moment and think about the challenges they face individually as young people in today's world. Our themes are broad but this enables the pupils to interpret the day and their faith in whichever way they feel comfortable.
Personally, I do this job to ensure that youngsters have the opportunity to feel welcomed into the Church, and also to come to recognise their faith. It is not easy, but to observe the impact we have strengthens my own faith too. Seeing the pressures and situations these kids are confronted with, makes me feel privileged to work in an environment where I can bring fun and laughter for a day – and also give every young person a chance to come to recognise the love of God.