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Listening to youth identifies next steps towards a "new way" of youth ministry

A Youth Listening Event at St. Alban's, Oakland/Franklin Lakes. JOHN KING PHOTO
Suzanne Willian
A Youth Listening Event at St. Alban's, Oakland/Franklin Lakes. JOHN KING PHOTO

In response to the departure of the diocese’s Director of Youth & Young Adult Ministries, diocesan staff formed an exploratory team that includes parents, clergy, and youth ministers. This team spent the last few weeks listening to our youth and those who care for them.

Youth gathered in Essex Fells, and Oakland. Kids named mission trips and lock-ins amongst their favorite experiences. When asked about where they have experienced the Holy Spirit's presence, one youth replied, "When you are struggling and having a hard time, just thinking of God helps."

In Short Hills, a group of young adults shared their faith journeys through high school, college, and post-college. There was considerable discussion around their college experiences and campus ministry. One participant reflected that while a lot of college students do not regularly attend services, after college some young adults feel the need to go back to church. This raised questions around how to welcome these young people back.

Congregational leaders engaged in a lunchtime discussion at Vestry University, and Listening Tables for adults, youth clergy, and lay were held in Newark and Denville. In these discussions there was considerable energy around opportunities for youth to participate as leaders in our faith communities.

These spirit-filled conversations have equipped the exploratory team for the next phase of their work. In the coming weeks, the team will name what they are hearing and learning, begin to discern the implications of those learnings to youth and young adult ministry in our diocese, and finally, begin to explore how our diocese, in partnership with congregations, can best support our youth and young adults. This process offers an opportunity to identify next steps towards a “new way” of youth ministry across our diocese.