Every year the same thing happens. June comes around and the church empties. It is Canada, and summer. What do you expect? Then September comes, and the frantic prayers: will the youth, the children, the families return? It takes until November for some ministries to be back in full swing.
Last winter I proposed that St. Georgeʼs, Calgary embark on a summer youth group and childrenʼs ministry. The children would live out the Exodus Story as actual Hebrews (yes my tour guides-Sunday school teachers-were in full costumes).
The youth group went on a series of day and evening Retreats from the Calgary Police Interpretative Centre (every youthʼs dream to process their youth leader?) to the Sam Livingston Ducks Unlimited Reserve. We also had campfire nights and awake-a-thons to answer the call to stay awake with Christ.
The youth summer kicked off with the “end of class bash: whole armour of God” where as the youth coined it in this water gun capture the flag match “We got to soak the priest and monk!”.
The cap off was a full day week-long vacation Bible school August 7 – 11 from 8:30 am – 4:00 pm for three to 11 year olds from the community to become part of Godʼs justice league (for fifteen children, half not from the church this was the best $15.95 I have ever spent).
Did it work? Our lowest ebb on a Sunday was two children, but we got as high as 20 with a normal Sunday seeing eight to 10 children in church. Our lowest youth retreat was five youth, the highest was 22.
Yes, there are many wonderful youth and childrenʼs camps available in Alberta and within the diocese. Yes, the city provides many great things for teens and children in the city, but what this summer proved was something even simpler.
You build a community where a child or teenager can be accepted for who they are, and meet Jesus…quite simply they will keep coming regardless of the time of year.
I would encourage each parish in the Diocese to begin year round ministry, it is not an experiment, but an integral part of the life of the Christian community.
Tyler Ragan is in ministry with children and youth at
St. Georgeʼs Anglican Church,
the parish where he was baptized as an infant.