Peculiar People: A New Calendar for Youth Ministry

Christians are a peculiar people. At least quarterly (if you’re not doing this quarterly, you should be! It says so in the Manual) we gather around a table, the pastor blesses bread, gives thanks, breaks it, and proclaims it the broken body of Jesus. In the same manner, the pastor takes a cup, blesses it, gives thanks, and proclaims it the blood of Jesus that has been poured out for the forgiveness of sin. We eat and we drink. It is a strange phenomenon, but it is good.

We do this peculiar act because in doing so we find life in our Lord Jesus Christ. We find reconciliation when we have to look at each other in the eye when we share this meal. Enemies become brothers and strangers become friends. Communion is the primary way in which Christians say yes to new life given to us in Christ and no to the patterns of this world. We’re transformed at the altar.

A NEW PATTERN

The truth of the gospel is conversion compels us to a completely new pattern of thinking, acting and being. For centuries Christians have demonstrated this most basically by commemorating each Sunday morning to the remembrance of Christ’s Resurrection by gathering to worship. Our alternative pattern of living extends to the hours during the week in which we pray (for many, fixed: morning, noon, evening, and night), and even to our calendar. These patterns are gifts of subversive living.

Historically Christians do not begin the year on January 1. Our new year begins with Advent, four Sundays before Christmas Day. It flows into Christmastide, celebrating the birth of our incarnate Lord and king; Epiphany, where Christ is unveiled to us as the light of the world; Lent, a season of repentance and spiritual reflection; Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection and God’s victory over death; Pentecost, when the gift of the Spirit is given; and finally ordinary time, where we focus on reordering our steps in the way of Jesus by his teachings.

MAKING SPACE FOR HOPE

We mark time by retelling the story of salvation year after year. This story runs contrary to the dominant narratives of consumerism and individualism.

While the weeks (and now even months!) leading up to Christmas are marked by door busters, a hijacking of the term “Black Friday,” and hyperactivity preparing for the perfect family Christmas, Christians are called to make space for hope that is surely coming into this world during Advent.

While we can’t wait to rip every Christmas decoration down on December 26th, the feast has only just begun. While the days become short, dark and cold in January, we remember that Christ’s glorious light has entered into this world during the Epiphany. Our time through Lent doesn’t find meaning in our weeklong spring break, but in the work God does in us while we fast. On the real “Black Friday” that we call “Good Friday,” we remember our own culpability in Christ’s death. The Easter is the day that changes all days. We shout, “He is Risen!”

Our youth are immersed in these narratives of consumerism and individualism each and every day. Our challenge as youth workers is that we present the alternative story – the story of Christ’s death and Resurrection – when we gather with them.

The Christian Calendar is not designed for empty ritual, but as a tool to remind us Jesus Christ is Lord of and redeeming all aspects of time.

Here are a few ideas to help integrate the Christian calendar into your youth ministry:

Give the Christian Calendar Priority
When laying out a ministry plan for a year, consider the church calendar prior to the school and sports calendar. Let the latter inform what you do, but give priority to the way the church has reenacted the story of salvation over and over again.

Hold Prayer Gatherings For Each Season
Dedicate one gathering per Christian season for creative modes of prayer. Integrate the themes of the season into the stations. Each season has loads of art and particular colors that go along with them. A quick Google search will provide a wealth of resources for each.

Explore the Lectionary
Let the lectionary be your template for curriculum for a season or maybe a bit longer. Using the lectionary forces us to examine scriptures we often neglect. A great resource that maps out the lectionary is http://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/.

Dig Deep into One Season
Journey through an entire Christian season with your youth. There are several devotional resources for this. Advent, Lent, and Ordinary Time by Erik Willits are tremendous resources. https://www.amazon.com/Erik-Willits/e/B00EH6K1Z2/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1.

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