A Taste of Youth Ministry

For Silvi Pirn, your Director of Youth Ministries, food and ministry go hand in hand, but maybe not in the way you might expect.  Yes, youth ministry is undeniably reliant on pizza and unnaturally orange snacks; Doritos and Cheetos really seem to make a difference to Middle Schoolers somehow.  But, for Silvi, the food analogy goes one step further; she compares youth ministry, particularly youth mission trips, to tasting new food.

Have you ever tried to invite someone to eat a new food?  In a conversation this weekend, Silvi described to me how she has helped people taste new food.  She would first describe what the food tastes like (imagining).  Then, she might have you taste the food, and while you are tasting it, she would describe again what you are tasting (guided experience).  Finally, she might ask you to describe what you tasted (reflection).

This cycle of (1) imagining, (2) guided experience and (3) reflection is important.  This cycle is why a short three day mission trip to Hollywood, where 12 and 13 year olds serve our country’s largest homeless population can be both generative and foundational.

• Even before our students embark on our trip, they get to imagine and talk about what God’s love is like, what God’s call on our lives might be – much like hearing the description of an unfamiliar food before it even hits their mouths.

• During the trip, they experience God through guided experience, actually living out God’s love and God’s call, much like tasting that new food and finding out that the food is much like it was described – wonderful and complex.

• And finally, they have chances on their trip and afterward, to reflect on what it was like to experience God’s wonderful and complex community.

Jesus’ words (those same words that these youth memorized when they were in third grade) come to life: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

I am grateful for the faithful women (yes, it happened to be an all girls team traveling to Hollywood) who I was able to travel with on our President’s Day Weekend Mission Trip, and I am humbled by their courage to try a new food, so to speak.