One of my favorite ways to end a winter retreat is with worship and communion. To me, there’s something so powerful about sharing the body and blood of Christ with those with whom you’ve spent a transformational weekend.
The problem is, in my denomination, as a youth worker who isn’t ordained, I can’t preside over communion.
Nevertheless, because I believe this is such a powerful closing ritual, I decided to broach this subject with my congregation’s pastors. I hoped they’d consecrate the elements for me and send me on my way.
Instead, my senior pastor did one better. He said, “I’ll come up on Sunday, participate in the morning’s activities, lead worship for you, and drive kids back to church.”
What’s even more remarkable about this is that he said so believing our associate pastor would be on vacation that Sunday, meaning he’d have to get a guest pastor for worship at home.
Now, our congregation isn't huge. Around 350 people worship with us on Sunday mornings. Even so, it blew my mind that he'd willing step away from the multitudes in order to serve a few.
But as he said, “I think this is a priority. That would, I think, send a message to the congregation about the importance of youth ministry for our congregation.”
As they say, actions speak louder than words and in this case, his actions spoke volumes.
Not only did his actions communicate the value of our youth ministry to our congregation back at home, but his presence also communicated the value of our youth ministry to our students and leaders attending the retreat.
To me, his presence said, “What you do here matters.”
To our adult leaders it said, “We are partners in ministry.”
Most importantly, to our students, it said , “You matter to this congregation. You're part of this community and I love and care about you.”
Those messages are powerful; In some ways, every bit as powerful as it was to share communion with one another at the closing worship service my senior pastor led on our winter retreat.
And while I can't be sure about this, my hunch is that maybe if we dared to invite our senior pastors to be more involved in our youth ministries (and our youth to be more involved in our congregations), we'd have to worry less about whether or not they'd remain in church as young adults. After all, if that were the case, our students would already be connected, not just to our youth ministries, but to our faith communities as a whole.