Youth ministry requires a smorgasboard of creativity, intentionality, absurdity, and a unique ability to create safe and sacred space for honest conversations. So when we mapped out the fall series, "Will You ______?,"* I knew we needed to be fairly playful when it came to making room for sharing and honoring doubt as faith (see related post). Our youth ministry team needed to find a way to hold in tension vulnerability with security so youth would feel free to converse with one another and share raw reflections.** We needed, a la Jesus and the dreams of God, to turn things upside down and level the playing field.
And we couldn't think of a better way than to have the most important meal of the day at the end of the day with pajamas as the required attire.
As expected, the youth and adult leaders didn't disappoint.
Hobbit slippers, flannel bottoms, superhero capes, bathrobes, and a fair share of footies.
Including those sported by this guy. #JesusWoreFooties
A rather shocking surprise for other church members and our associate of pastoral care. I think she wants to schedule a conversation with me now.
On pajama night, over 50 of us sat together and enjoyed pancakes, fruit, and nature's candy- BACON. We even discovered these strips of deliciousness have their own patron saint, Anthony the Abbot. A rather fitting observation given our meal took place on All Saint's Sunday.
Then we headed into a youth-led worship service and contemplated doubt as faith. We affirmed the community of saints as safe grounds to share and honor questions, curiosities, and insecurities common to all who pilgrimage alongside Jesus.
After all, the faithful have always been doubtful. This includes Jesus who pondered his own ability to endure the cross.
It was a holy time. It was a sacred time. It was an awkward time. It was a blessed time.
And again, the youth did not disappoint with their fair share of doubts and questions honored and confessed. They sat together in pairs and filled in the blanks of these cards. Doubts about the existence of God, effectiveness of prayer, hopes for the world to ever be the way God intended, and whether they could trust they mattered to anyone echoed through the small chapel. And they prayed for each other as they sat in clothing usually confined to sleepovers.
So next time you are interested in fostering an environment where youth feel free to share reflections on a difficult topic, consider flipping the day upside down, eating some bacon, and putting on your pajamas. When youth are brave enough to look ridiculous on the outside, sharing vulnerabilities long silenced on the inside does not seem so bad.
*This series is rooted in the belief that a large part of what it means to follow Jesus is willingness to follow, fail, try, and respond to the good news of God's love for the whole world- especially our most vulnerable neighbors.
**Many thanks to Kathy Escobar, who served as a humble conversaiton partner of the blogosphere and email. Her book, Down We Go, has a beautiful and insightful chapter on sharing and honoring doubt. I highly reccomend the read and her related blogpost. This would serve as a great reflection for both youth and adults, pastors and pew sitters alike.