February is here, and we are well into our yearly theme. 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 working in a Church that wasn’t my own denomination…
Sarah Briggs resides in Asheville, NC and works in Hospital Development and Family Support Services for LifeShare of the Carolinas. She is a graduate of Wingate University and the Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity, where her focus was Christian Education and Formation. She enjoys live music, spending time with the folks she loves, and exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains she is lucky enough to call home.
I have grown up Baptist. I grew up in a moderate Baptist church, attended a historically Baptist college, and earned my M.Div from a Baptist seminary. I’ve attended and worked Baptist camps, conferences, retreats, worship services… You name it. If it was Baptist thing, I was a part of it somehow.
So when I found myself sitting in an interview to be the Youth & Family Ministries Coordinator for an Episcopal Church, I was like a fish out of water. When I was offered the job and accepted it, my first thought was, “What the heck am I actually doing here?”
As it turns out, spending over two years working with a denomination that was vastly different from the one I grew up in and was trained up in ended up being extremely fruitful for my life professionally as a minister, as well as my own personal faith life. I have learned so much about the Church as a whole.
There are things that both denominations do really well, and these are solely in my opinion and experience. The Episcopal Church has solid, thoughtful, beautiful liturgy to reflect the each season of the Church year, but lacks structured Christian Education and Formation in its DNA. On the other hand, the Baptist Church has a long history of Christian Education and Formation that has stood the test of time, while lacking solid worship liturgy. Worship and Formation are two foundation aspects of the Church and faith life that could be greatly enhanced through collaboration and dialogue across these two denominations.
The experience of working in the Episcopal Church has greatly helped me to shape my identity as a minister and as a child of God. For my personal theology, I have thrown out the things I don’t like about the Baptist Church, kept the things I do like, picked up the things I like about the Episcopal Church, and discarded things I don’t like. I’ve picked up things from Quakers and Pentecostals, Lutherans and Disciples of Christ.
I often feel like a denominational mutt – picking and choosing the things I like from various denominations to make up some sort of alternative denomination that works for me. It’s sometimes really hard to be this way, because there is so much denominational pride – which is good. So feeling like a mutt, I don’t feel like I have a true home in any denomination. Or I feel like I am SO denominational, I’m really undenominational. Does that make sense?
In reality, we are all these unique children of God who have been shaped by our good and bad experiences in every church we’ve attended. Our idea of Church will continually be shaped as we grow, mature, and experience new theology. So, get out there and try something new. You don’t have to love it or agree with it, but trying it will help to shape your theologies and the ways you minister to those around you.