God as the Innovator, Pastors as Co-Creators
“It is important for you to birth new things as a pastor. It’s probably more important for you to inspire, equip, and bless your church members who are doing the innovation.”
These words, paraphrasing Kenda Creasy Dean’s comments to our group, bore into my soul. On Saturday, May 7th, the Yale Youth Ministry Institute hosted the Rev. Dr. Dean and the Rev. Matt Overton as our guest presenters at our annual Summer Symposium. It was the first in-person gathering from our office since March of 2020. The attendees focused on one predominant query: how do we innovate as youth leaders?
We all know the church stats. Numbers are down, and people are tired. Youth are not returning to church with the same vigor (if they return at all). The mental health crisis, on the other hand, has reached an unprecedented high. All of these things are real, and they have an impact on our work, our stamina, our focus. The picture, when viewed thus, appears bleak.
But amidst all of the doom and gloom conversation, a voice whispers: God is still here. And not only is God still present, but God the Creator wishes to create new things in and through all people. God wishes to work through our churches, and through us. How do we participate in the creation of something new, especially for our young people?
On May 1st, we asked these questions, and others, to our presenters. At the conclusion of our session, those who were gathered each took away from our session an idea. It was an idea contextually rooted in our ministry settings. They were ideas that began as seeds, and germinated as we were led through workshops, exercises, and ever-deepening conversations with colleagues.
We were also reminded of a very important fact: it is God who innovates. It is God who gives the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6-7). For more on that, see the Rev. Dr. Dean’s comments here. The tendency for church leaders is to constantly find themselves on the rat race of creation. But the invitation is towards centeredness, so that we can, in Dr. Dean’s words, “inspire, equip, and bless” our congregation.
The resources from May 1st will shortly be on our website; we’ll keep you posted! In the meantime, we invite you to ponder with us:
What new thing is God wishing to co-create with you?
And what is the next step that will help you on that journey?
Beloved ministers: may you all be blessed, equipped, and inspired in your ministries. Your kids are worth it. And so are you.
On the journey with you,
Rev. Jill Olds, Director of the Yale Youth Ministry Institute