Helping Youth Find Their Voice

EYE bannerLast week I was immersed in a gathering of over 1,000 Episcopalians (800 of them high school youth) from over 80 dioceses including Taiwan, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and the continental United States. It was a time of joy-filled worship, music, fun, learning, and growing in discipleship. While this was the largest gathering of Episcopal youth, the triennial EYE (Episcopal Youth Event) just touches the tip of the iceberg of all the young people who call the Episcopal Church home.

How can we engage all those who don’t have access to diocesan youth programs, let alone the experiences and connections made on the campus of Villanova last week?

The theme of #EYE14  was “Marked for Mission.” Each participant received a book, Marked for Mission (Morehouse, 2014), that Bronwyn Clark Skov and I put together, sharing the voices of young people and how they live out the Baptismal Covenant, the Five Marks, and lifelong learning. It put in their hands some reflections about what it means to be marked as Christ’s own forever – and how to take that out into the world.

Stephanie Spellers preached at the opening Eucharist. Lessons included the call of Samuel and Jesus feeding the 5,000. She charged everyone present to “Find your voice, feel that love, and then spread it around.”

How do we in our congregations help youth find their voice? How do we empower them, then step out of the way and let them lead? EYE was an example (albeit on a large scale) how our communities can do this. Give them leadership roles. Ask what they want. Listen. Be present and supportive. Let go of your authority. Listen.

What if we allowed youth to mentor us?

I’ll be posting more of my reflections in the days to come with some thoughts on how we might do just that.

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