Martin Saunders, a youth worker in the UK and contributing blogger for the online magazine, Premier Youthscape, wrote a riveting article last week connecting the mega-themes of the new Avengers: Age of Ultron movie (major blockbuster for 2015–kicking off the summer movie series, right!) to youth ministry.
“Thor is swinging his hammer, Iron Man is firing energy beams from his hands and Captain America is throwing his shield around like a boss. Along with a gaggle of other superheroes, they’re fighting off an innumerable legion of robot baddies in, of all places, an old church. This is the glorious finale of Avengers: Age of Ultron, 2015’s biggest blockbuster.
It’s the purest distillation of the Avengers concept: some situations are so tough, some bad guys so evil, that overcoming them takes teamwork. If any one of the Avengers were to fight Ultron and his army on their own, they’d be easily overpowered; only by working together can they pave the way for the next inevitable round of sequels.
Now, call me sad, but as I watched that incredible scene in the cinema recently, I couldn’t help but think about the parallels with youth ministry. Granted, we’re not called to fight evil robots and none of us are going to turn into an out-of-control green giant when we get angry (as far as I know), but youth ministry is full of local and national heroes, all of us facing a particularly difficult situation right now. So the question is, how are we going to address it: as a series of individuals, trying our hardest to solve the problems directly in front of us, or back to back, arm in arm, working together and for one another?” (read the rest here…)”
And I think he’s on to something…
Are we ready for an age of collaboration?
Youth ministry can often feel pretty isolating—our work is often confined to a segmented population (high school) with very little cross-over to other areas of the church. Granted, youth ministry does have its unique needs, challenges, and joys, but I think most people who work in faith formation of youth also realizes that IT DOESN’T START HERE.
Faith Formation for our youth doesn’t begin when our graduating 8th graders go through some wild initiation rituals to enter MYF. Likewise, faith formation doesn’t end when they walk across the stage wearing a cap and gown.
Parents are the #1 influence in the faith development of their youth. #1. So how are we as youth workers, taking a collaborative approach? Faith formation is most holistically and authentically developed as it is integrated into the whole of the church, where everyone sees themselves as formers of faith for we all belong to one another.
What does it mean to look outside our little office and 4-year walls to build bridges and strengthen partnerships with the whole of the church remembering that WE CAN’T DO IT ALONE.
But even more so–as youth workers–as formers of faith–we need to broaden our own horizons. Navigating this ever-changing culture and contextualizing our faith in ways that our youth understand and can make sense of, is no delicate matter.
You need someone who has your back.
It is too daunting to go at it alone. We need one another. Like the Avengers who would have been utterly destroyed in the final epic battle if one decided that they didn’t need the others and could handle it on his/her own, we really do need each other to companion and work together.
Simply put, we are better together.
Didn’t Jesus say that too?
Jesus never sent out his followers by themselves…but always in pairs.
Even the animals of the Ark knew they couldn’t go at it alone.
And we all know…where 2 or 3 are gathered together…
And isn’t the Holy Spirit the greatest Super Power of all?
And if you need more convincing, it is simply more fun to gather and journey along together.
So as we enter into this Convention week–Kansas City 2015–and into the BIG official launch and celebration of this site, like the Avengers–we too declare that we are greater than the sum of our parts when we collaborate.
This, my friends, is exactly what TGP is all about. It is about bringing you together with others from all over the country (and world–holla, France and Canada TGP subscribers!). It’s about developing connection and networking, finding space to ask questions, wrestle with concerns, in essence, to learn and grow with one another.
At Kansas City Convention, The Gathering Place will have space in the Exhibit Hall, couched within the Executive Board booth. At our booth, bring your entire youth ministry team to come talk with me or Scott Roth (entrepreneurial youth ministry) about this site, pick up some TGP swag, and get your picture taken with some Avenger paraphernalia as a reminder that at The Gathering Place…
…truly, we are better together.
Rachel Gerber is the Denominational Minister of Youth and Young Adults and editor of The Gathering Place. She’s looking forward to meeting with you next week at KC or gathering with you virtually throughout the year ahead. Subscribe to The Gathering Place to stay connected with the latest gathering happenings.