Stories of Ecumenical Youth Ministry
Just a quick note to tell you about our ecumenical high school youth group. I moved “back home” to a small town in western Wisconsin about 5 years ago. I noticed quickly that every church had a very fledging high school youth group. Knowing from my teenagers that the biggest motivator in a teen’s life is often their friends, I approached a couple of local pastors about the idea of “combining” all of our youth groups into ONE ecumenical high school Christian-based youth group.
We did just that! FIRE -- Faith In Real Experiences
-- is our local group and it encompasses teenagers from all of the congregations in our area, Lutheran, Catholic, United Church of Christ (UCC), and others. It is open to every teenager that attends our high school. It is basically a lay led ministry, but at different times pastors from each of these congregations have participated in some way.
Our attendance ranges from 6 to 50 kids depending on the programming.
We have done everything from trick or treating for the local food pantry, to bringing in pastors of three different faiths to share perspectives on issues involving gay and lesbian persons, to taking the kids to the accident site where a school mate was killed in a drunk driving accident, to looking at the role of women in the Bible… and so much more.
...now I work with teens who seldom see the lines between our denominations and theologies.
- Naomi Bodway
I have learned a lot in this ministry, and one of things that I have learned is that I have to unpackage the term “ecumenical”. Young people often don’t know what it means. I remember my oldest sister having to tell the boy that asked her to homecoming that she couldn't go because he was Catholic and she was Lutheran, and now I work with teens who seldom see the lines between our denominations and theologies.
At the end of the day, it has been a pretty successful ministry, and has been a positive thread of cooperation for our community. Naomi Bodway