This year’s theme is “The Story/The Stories.” Each week our blog will focus on a story from a youth minister. We hope these stories help inspire you in the great work you are doing, as well as let you know you aren’t alone in the crazy, sweet, often hard to fathom world of youth ministry. This week we are hearing……
The Story of my favorite youth events
Sharon Kirkpatrick Felton has been the Minister to Youth and Students at Faith Baptist Church for a year and a half. She has over 25 years’ experience in student ministry having served in churches in Texas and Tennessee and on college campuses in Kentucky. She graduated from Baylor University with a degree in Psychology and from Southwestern Seminary with a Masters of Divinity with biblical languages. Sharon is passionate about advocating for others and working to ensure that all people experience justice and are free to live the life God has for them. She also loves to cheer for the Baylor Bears, Dallas Cowboys, and Texas Rangers! She is married to Dr. Keith Felton, and they have three children, Carter, Dakota, and Maya. Matthew 22:36-40 is the foundation for the way Sharon does life and ministry.
The story of my favorite youth programs actually involve senior adults! I have always been a believer in intergenerational ministry but making it happen outside of worship in most churches is a challenge. This year our church hired a senior adult minister. After some great conversations about youth and seniors we started planning some joint programs. Our first excursion was this past summer. Our summer youth programming includes a Wednesday afternoon event. In the past we have had Bibles studies, games, mission experiences, etc. This year we made cards for our senior adults, put small flowers in vases and then loaded up on our church bus to visit the senior adults. Our senior adult minister drove and gave us a rundown of the seniors we were headed to visit. We were prepared to help them with all types of projects from washing their cars, yard work, to moving furniture! And while we did do some small projects, we primarily visited with our senior adults. Initially, I was worried that the youth would be bored or distracted, or quite possibly rude! What we discovered was a beautiful partnership. The youth piled into living rooms, back porches or gathered outside and then each one introduced himself or herself and told a fun fact about the summer or a favorite something. Then our Senior Adult minister would introduce the senior and give us a few interesting facts about the person we were visiting, then we would listen to the senior adult talk about their life. Often the minister would ask leading questions or encourage them to tell us about something specific, while we listened and asked questions.
We heard from one woman whose grandparents traveled out west by covered wagon and participated in the land grab of Wyoming. How her father was always first on the scene when someone needed help and gave generously to help people in the community. Her family still owns 18,000 acres there and she goes back every year for several months to the ranch! We learned that our church started in the courthouse with just a few people. Toured a man’s farm and picked blackberries. Learned that his farm was located where General Cornwallis established camp in Kentucky. We shared cookies and fresh picked tomatoes with one women and heard about another who grew up in one of the Kentucky Baptist Children’s homes and what that experience was like for her and her siblings. One of our senior adult men came over from Cuba in the early 50’s and eventually went on to be a professor at Georgetown College. We also sat with a couple and talked with the wife while her husband was in and out of sleep curled up on a hospital bed in the living room. He suffers from dementia. Our youth learned so much about life and history and community. They saw vibrant, engaged seniors and also experienced the challenges of caring for those who are suffering. It was a great summer of ministry for our youth and for our seniors! And the youth loved it! They shared the stories with each other and family and they came back week after week excited to go and meet our seniors ad learn more about their incredibly interesting lives!
After the summer was such a huge hit we proceeded to plan Youth and Senior Game Night! Our first one was a great success! We had official game night snacks and then we spent the next hour or so playing Scrabble, dominoes, Jenga, Headbands, chess and we also hooked a WII up to a giant screen and played bowling and tennis! It was a great time! We made sure that youth and adults were grouped together and rotated around so that people met and played with new people. We had such a good time no one wanted to stop! Everyone loved it so much we scheduled one for next month and then again in the spring! Parents were so happy they offered to pick up seniors and bring them if they needed rides. I am so excited about the new friendships and community we are forming together with our youth and senior adults as we learn from each other and play together! These programs have been a huge gift and ministry to our seniors but also to our youth and I think we will see positive ripples through out our entire church family.