“Like coming home” – A Youth Reflection on the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago’s Annual Convention

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As a follow up to a recent post, I asked Mae, one of our youth who attended Diocesan Convention as a delegate, to write a short reflection on her participation in this event. Here is what she had to say:

“I was honored to be able to participate at Diocesan Convention as a Youth Delegate. I learned so much over the course of two days. I discovered how business meetings work. I learned they can actually be quite interesting, and that candy (thoughtfully provided by your youth minister) can make any long meeting better. I found how important it was to include new youth. Being a seasoned youth member with many years of dioocesan camp and other activities under my belt, it’s easy to forget how it feels not to know anybody. I remembered the necessity to catch up with old friends and fellow campers who I hadn’t seen since last summer. I experienced the comfort of everyone just letting go on the dance floor, and that same comfort as I found the opportunity to have deep conversations with people I love. While I hadn’t attended Convention since I was nine, it somehow felt like coming home. I’m so glad I was able to go to Diocesan Convention this year, and I’m thankful for my church family that made it so meaningful.” 

Mae along with eleven other youth delegates joined the 700 leaders from our diocese that attended this important annual event to learn more about sharing our stories, welcoming strangers, and getting outside the doors of our churches to share God’s love. She represented her peers to vote on important issues facing the mission and ministry of the 127 churches in our diocese. All of our youth delegates made a significant impact through their presence and leadership. And it would seem that the experience left an imprint on them as well. Let’s keep this in mind and remember to include young people in leadership whenever and wherever we can in the life of the church.


Ministry Lessons from the US Navy SEALs – Teamwork, Training, and Excellence

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For years I’ve been fascinated by the US Navy SEALs. Undoubtedly, most are familiar with this elite group of warriors and some of their high profile missions. But you’re probably already asking “What could these gun toting commandos possibly have to do with youth ministry?” Hang with me.

Any investigation of the Navy SEALs will uncover the intense focus this group places on teamwork, training, and excellence under pressure. Navy SEAL units are very intentionally called “Teams” rather than squads or platoons. And their training places utmost importance on each soldier working for the good of the team rather than the individual. One training exercise called “gear soup” puts all of the team’s gear in a small pool. Disorganized, scattered, and soaking wet, all soldiers have to retrieve their gear and prepare for their team’s mission under a time limit. Soldiers who look for their own gear first wind up doing extra PT to remind them to work for the good of the team.

Perhaps one of the most impressive things about the SEALs is their ongoing dedication to training. In fact they would say that a SEAL never stops training. This is notable considering how difficult it is to become a SEAL in the first place. But even after a SEAL earns their Trident pin, they continue training throughout their career, adding skills and competencies. Not to mention continued physical training to keep their bodies in top condition. SEALs are incredible examples of lifelong learners. And this comes from their teamwork ethic. They constantly want to improve so they can be a better asset to the team!

The best known trait of the SEALs may be the way they are expected to perform in extreme circumstances. During training SEAL candidates are constantly ordered to get “wet and sandy,” which involves a long run across a beach, a quick dip in cold ocean water, a roll in the sand, and a long run back to formation. The soldiers complete the rest of the day’s training “wet and sandy.” The reason being that the instructors want the soldiers to learn how to perform at their best even when they are uncomfortable.

I think all three of these traits are applicable to youth ministry. What do you think? How can we be more committed to teamwork, training, and excellence in our ministries with young people?