My brother-in-law is a Methodist minister. I have learned a lot from him over the years. Visiting small-town Indiana and having the opportunity to attend his church services, I often had experiences that I just couldn't get back home. On one such visit he had to duck over to the church for something called "Wacky Wednesday".
What was this Wacky Wednesday? A new kind of liturgy in the Methodist church, perhaps? An untraditional bible study group?
He explained the concept. You can't just assume a junior high or senior high youth group. You have to grow your youth group. You have to provide the opportunities for shared experiences that help the kids form the bonds that will lead to positive youth group dynamics in their teen years. So you start in elementary school.
Every Wednesday afternoon in the summer there were special activities for the older elementary kids--water balloon fights, crazy hair day, scavenger hunts, and so on. And he, as the pastor, was right in the middle of it. Of course his church had a religious education director, and a youth group director, and parent volunteers, as well. But he still felt he needed to be there.
Why was it so important to "grow that youth group"? Well, in their church, those young people were actively involved in worship, service projects, and more. They formed a safety net for each other during challenging adolescent years. They helped elderly members in the congregation, and made care packages to mail to the congregation's college students for exam time. The teens were a valuable link in the chain that connected everyone in the church.
All of this prologue comes to this: are we, in Columbia, growing our own youth group? Are we making the connections across generations to ensure active participation for the future? It often feels that this business of Columbia is very much tied up in certain people fighting to maintain control. But if that struggle becomes the central struggle, then we are missing the opportunity to reach out to younger residents.
Yes, I know I have talked about this before. It's a familiar theme. But it keeps coming back because the need to address it is ever more important. A one-generation church cannot survive. Nor can a one-generational community. As the Columbia Council/CA Board rejects one kind of leadership in search of another, I have another question for them.
What are you doing to "grow" participation and a sense of ownership amongst younger residents? I have a gut feeling that time may be running out on this one. A plan to respond to the needs of older adults is great--who will be there to support them when they need help? Who will appreciate their experiences and advice? Who will carry on their dreams?
May I respectfully suggest that it's time to get Wacky.