Posts Tagged ‘NE Calgary’

What is Youth Ministry?

Posted: September 28, 2019 by Ty in Spirituality
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It has been a long discourse, bumpy roads, and yes, to grow a ministry that actually disciples an individual into a deeper communion with the Holy, and an firmer understanding is what they believe and why they believe it, and by extension create belonging. Some may be shocked that I say individual and not “youth”. This is because part of the discipleship, is the growing faith for those who provided pastoral care and spiritual direction to the group. These individuals may be paid or unpaid, but should not come with canned responses, should interact the community the youth exist in and how the faith responds and grows within.

Why this topic? Almost becoming a rant? Simple, as my family begins to dream one googles for what is out there for the calls on their heart and then you roll across posts ala this one out of St. George’s in Calgary (read post), a small parish wrestling with how to interact and shepherd youth. I get it. Creating ways to engage youth with the life of the congregation and through an understandable standard ala Scouts makes sense. It is a good path possibly if it works for those who are attached to the congregation. Yet it is in defending that paid youth ministry does not need to happen and stating things like “entertainment” or “babysitting” is saddening and angering. This is why youth have walked out on the church. They want depth, they want to be able to ask questions, investment in who they are.

It is a dodge used by churches who do not feel a youth pastor with worthy of pay. I have heard it many times, or they produce such a low pittance that the investment of time by the pastor breaks down to less than 2 bucks an hour, so when you re-frame it as an honourarium then the congregations balk saying “no we pay you!”… when what is needed is investment in the person and their family who are called, whether it is financial, honouring gifts, and belonging themselves. I am not zeroing in on this congregation specifically, as I had a good time with them as their youth pastor and we had impact on our community, and growth in the faith of youth, but it is a good time to reflect on this concept and what discipleship means?

This is not just an Anglican issue with youth ministry. Across the Christianities I have seen this concept. Only put out dogma, no questions allowed. What can we do this week to compete with (fill in the latest craze or social media blank)…totally missing the point that it is about allowing the youth to question. It is not simply a mind/brain issue, but an emotional/spiritual question, a connecting of the two so a person begins to belong in who they are and how they are created (the Imageo Dei), and then how they fit into the Body of Christ, and the Missio Dei (Mission of God) regardless of age—what are they called to do? What gifts do they have? How are they meant to use them to make the parish better– and the parish is not just the four walls where the group meets or church happens, rather the parish is the broader community they exist in, and the circles of influence they are a part of.

It is investment in time, dsipling on the role of faith, exploring the doctrinal documents of the faith, spiritual practices, and the things they want to know how their faith interacts with. It is truly creating a courageous safe space to be where no question is out of bounds for exploration. Where you crack open the liturgy and the Holy Scriptures for discussion, and debate.

Why does this matter for me?

I am aware of 3 congregations within blocks of each other, at the heart of the Properties Communities’ of North East Calgary. Within the circle of the Village Square Leisure Centre either exploring, on life support or growing youth ministries. Yet, in a community that is seeing a rise in rough campers, pan handlers, economic mental health effects, highly multi-cultural, religiously diverse, socio-economically diverse, sexual identity diverse, the drug and sex traffickers (predators) using the parking lots of these sacred spaces…

And brands (denominationalism) in my heart is stopping them from actually answering the call to respond to the needs of their parish. The Missio Dei literally at the heart of the parish, within their congregations, and at the door step (parking lot stall).  One has to wonder, if ego can be placed aside, and the almost 12 congregations meeting within these 5 buildings can get together and realize that an in-reach and out-reach to the youth of the community, creating that courageous safe space, can actually transform things for the better. Be the light house into the darkness, confusing it, challenging it, and dispersing it– not through fear, but through HOPE.

This is the prayer for my neighbourhood, but all too often when raised to the clerics and boards the answer is fear of the other church, that closes the door.


I had the privilege several weeks ago to be a guest on Light News Radio where we discussed a multitude of topics, as I phrased it after, the old data banks haven’t had such a work out for awhile. Yet the heart of the show was the discussion of moving beyond inclusion to belonging. For regular readers, you know I have been in the midst of re-discovering how my brain works, and the journey continues. The show had two times when there was dead time:

  • The shameless self-promotion. For those who know me, have taken courses from me, or been apart of groups/programs I have run know that this is just simple uncomfortable for myself. Some may call it humility, I simply put it out as the things that I have been blessed to be apart of, congealed together in the right moments with those the Holy Mystery intended to be apart of it. I have several books and articles across the last 33 years that share the experience, pieces I have aided have become political party policy, and sometimes pieces of legislation and laws. But the best is when someone who thought they had no place to belong finally find that safe zone to grow into the authentic them from. One friend keeps reminding me when we meet for spiritual coaching/direction “If you could get self-promotion you would be bigger that Wayne Dyer.” I simply laugh it off, just cause we’re bald doesn’t mean anything. But I do thank Deirdre on the radio for the highest compliment I can be paid, “you walk your talk.”
  • Your journey: this is the question when you can literally if you are listening close enough you can hear me having one of my neuro-glitches, thank you Dr. J and Deirdre for carrying the conversation until I came around. What was missed though is what I would like to share now. I have been blessed to find belonging in the midst of change. I live in the same house I was brought home from the hospital from, my family bought it from my folks, and yes it was the first house built on the block. I love where I live. NE Calgary is the world outside your door step. We are a midst of the socio-economic classes, spiritualities, we have shared accommodations, renters (market, affordable and Calgary Housing Company) and homeowners (and guess what, how one pays for their home does not entail if they are a good neighbour) and cultures that make the mosaic of the human race beautiful (98.5% non-western European descent, did a study on it in seminary circa 2006 when I was a Franciscan serving an Anglican parish). Our communities were built before Calgary forgot what planning entailed so we are well resourced with a hospital, malls, grocery stores, schools (public and separate, and all grades); the highest numbers of churches per capita with the lowest percentage of residents that are Christian (circa 2006-7 data). Like any community there has been places that have accepted us, and scorned us. My daughter got the fun in her pre-school years to explain Good Friday as “we are going to the church that baptized Daddy and killed Jesus” (as I was the first baby on a baptismal roll) to her being able to be the second generation to attend a Presbyterian Vacation Bible School in our community (it is one of the little churches that could). It is a place where I was able to be at the cornerstone laying ceremony for Canada’s largest Mosque. Where we learned as students to be a good citizen means to constructively query those in power, and hold to account for what needs to happen. Through actions of my family and neighbours learn how to support one another. It is where as we raise my son, we know that there are enough oldsters around to watch out for him (and my daughter) and enough newbies his smile and laughter had ingratiated him to them they will watch out for him.

This community had multiple religions in my Alliance Church pre-school as a child, and allowed for curiosity, open exploration of other understandings of religion and the world. We accepted openly refugees (the Vietnamese boat people) and lived out the mosaic ideal of Multi-Culturalism. I remember my elementary school spear heading the first special needs class room for the CBE, and y’know what those 3 kids were just part of our community.

It is a place from my vantage point where I mourn the entrenchment and extremist hate I see once again resurfacing in my country, for there will be those that will miss the beauty of a world where there is no other, only a family member we have not met. It is where my family openly discussed differing political viewpoints; shared the importance of acceptance, of women’s rights, where my Nan shared the story of her gay cousin who took his life and how that was wrong over someone for how God made them. Hearing my Grandma Ragan having tossed American troops from her Montreal diner for their racism. My Grandpa Joe winning a humanitarian of the year award. My Granddad and Nan, hearing how their home was the safe home in their community, a sanctuary for the loving parents no matter who you were.

The type of home my parents made for my brother and I and our friends. My brother was more social than I, but our home was open. It was the safe place, and yes our friends no matter our age referred them as “my brother’s name or Ty’s” Mum & Dad. That is the lesson of belonging. As my family grew into the space there are many things and those stories by those we have called friend are there’s to share. My family simply saw our neighbour, and opened ourselves up to friendship, and sometimes became the family that is not made with blood and DNA.

The lived journey is what brought me to understand belonging. The messy process that is missed in data sets, codifications, and labels. It is what lead me down many educational paths to get the skills necessary when presented with new situations and challenges. When I speak of the question “who is my neighbour?” it is about creating a space beyond accessibility, inclusion and affirmation.

It is creating a home of belonging where you feel open to drop by, pop in, share a meal or a cuppa. Whether it is just needing a place to be, or explore a book or a movie, chat, games, let the kids be kids…or simply abide until the pain passes or to share the joy. That is the journey of belonging and the heart understanding I bring to the pathway.

The Radio Show

Any time I go by the Temple fire hall in Northeast Calgary, I see the vacant lot where I once was the Director of Youth and Children’s Ministries, did my Franciscan formation, and yes was the first baby on the Baptism registry (though that was when the congregation met in a Roman Catholic School Gymnasium)…St. George’s Anglican, they now meet in a local ELCIC congregation (Lutheran denom in full communion with the Anglican Church of Canada, I do not understand why it is still a rental situation, not my bit to go into). What is seen in the empty lot is what many spiritual communities go through in Canada. We are small communities of folks, many more members in the Greatest and Baby Boom Generation, than Gen X or Millenials, so decline is inevitable. As a house owner raising the 3rd generation of my family in the home I can tell you property is expensive, not just to buy but to keep up…never mind when you have to make an insurance claim or get an unexpected repair (roofs are not your friend over time, neither is old piping). Many property owners get the conundrum of the aging/declining small to medium congregation. For every Centre Street Church or First Alliance in Calgary, there are literally hundreds in buildings or rental spots.

Yet here is the empty lot that shows what happens when you can’t keep up. But there is hope from the embers, rumour has it that an affordable to life seniors housing is to go in, and the congregation is primed to move back into a multi-use space. Quite a living out of the Great Commission, and knowing the social programs this little church that could offered it would be a great joint initiative. It is one example of thinking outside the box to survive and hopefully thrive. The Chinese United Church did much the same thing, and there is a host of other churches across the country that have moved this way. In Huntington Hills Westbourne Baptist Church (for history nuts, the church that launched Social Credit, and William Aberhart), had a senior residence built on their land and then brilliantly built a plus 15 for residents to use to come to service.

It is ways to allow for a form of life support while the congregation figures out what their own life expectancy means. Surprising choice of words for some. But every organization has a life expectancy, they are an organism, where the people are the atoms that make up the substance of their communal life. The struggle becomes when spiritual communities cannot see the end coming, or want to put off, much like the relative who places someone on perpetual life support. Sometimes the resuscitation works well, other times it just adds to the pain of the inevitable implosion.

In the last major downturn, many downtown churches in Calgary sold of their building limits (the rules that sky scrapers could not go above their steeples) which allowed a thriving downtown, and these churches to change direction and become relevant to those they served.

That is the key for understanding if it is time to move out of the building, and sell to pay debt, if the community wants to last longer move into a rental…or explore another options ala noted above. This is the crossroads faith communities are at. When the money conversations begin, what needs to happen though is to be able to remember there are people involved, it is not zero based accounting, or numbers or a drive to save the building. Each decision has repercussions like the pebble in the river, and an understanding needs to be reached. I firmly fall into the category of churches using their building to thrive in the community relevancy through things such as community gardens, after school youth programs, spiritual formation groups/classes/courses; sadly with the commodification of humanity food banks have become institutions; farmers market; free swap days or rummage sales; shelter beds in needed; working with social agencies to provide resource space; community meals; if you are blessed with a gym use government grants and get it back up to code to run floor hockey or basketball leagues that are free. Really understand what your community can use to be better.

I also fall into the camp though if the endeavours border on that which is for profit, then the church shall need to start paying business taxes. Below are some links to 3 recent articles on the state of the church, reflect on what is happening, are these things that should be taxed? Not taxed? Are they helpful to the community?

Church and Micro-brewery:

Quebec churches to close:

Churches saving themselves through real estate:

As noted in the Quebec diocese, is the building relevant to the spiritual community’s ability to thrive?

I simply note closed signs, and empty lots, and ponder what is to be birthed a new… for every life cycle brings struggles, death, rebirth, and renewal. This is not simply a church issue, but a parable for any community/social grouping and the same questions to be asked.

What will be the lasting legacy?

It is quite a thing. As I have written about previously, at my Mum’s funeral having neighbours share about the food pantry she used to run for the neighbours, knowing she would provide child care, and really there was always an open door for friends and family.

Throughout my life volunteering with the Guys and Dolls Seniors Club and work with churches, as many elders transitioned from homes to apartments they felt the need to aid me and sent quite a few household items and furnishings my way that has built many homes for many folks transitioning out of homelessness; garage sale fodder to support many youth projects, non-profits and political campaigns. Heck in 2006 I kicked of my campaign by doing a donation drive for the Mustard Seed.

This week as the last few donations have left the house, garbage swept up…it is obvious that the era of that for our humble abode has come to an end after nearly 40 years.

Yet a note in one of the condolence cards from my work rings out, that points out live the lessons she taught.

So that is a guiding point in restarting our potluck nights/afternoons with movies, etc…through our home to gather together.

One era ends…another is renewed this Sunday.

As a native Calgarian-check that- as someone born, bred and raised in NE Calgary, and has lived my entire life in Rundle-in the same home even where the 3rd generation of my family is now being raised…I must say I remember 1989.

I remember the electricity coursing through my city as a child as the Flames fought their way back to the Stanley Cup Avenue, hearing of the mysterious Electric Avenue. Watchning the games as the Flames played the Habs, and Lanny McDonald who my Dad went to school with for a time in Hannah, score on the way to the Cup.

I remember my Dad taking us to the celebratory parade.

The Name Song faux pas when they reached Hakan Loob: “Hakan bo Bakan mana fano fo F—” well you get the picture.

Fast forward to the 2014-15 edition, the rebuild year of younglings. Too young, too inexperienced the hockey analyst would say to expect more than a cellar finish for a few years.


Professionals like many policitical polls of recent yore were wrong.

Welcome to the Duck Hunt of Round 2 of the NHL Playoffs 2015 edition.

Honestly as a city tax paying Calgarian and homeonwer, even though I am a Habs fan, no matter how far these kids make it as a city we need to throw a parade and a party that ends with them White Hatted, in Olympic Plaza (just watch the names you toss into the Name Song).

For they have truly shown what team and heart can do.

It is quite a unique paradigm that exists within N.E. Calgary. From my own research a few years back in my Masters’ it is the vast majority non-western European descent, working class, yet we have this astounding quandary of the most churches per capita anywheres.

Most of these buildings are multiple congregation use. That is one name on the mast head, and at least 1 more congregation (if not sometimes up to 6) renting. So you have these multiple service times, worship styles, money going in to keep the rent paid, and pastor paid, very little outreach done…and each grouping not even filling one service fully. Yet within this microcosm there is usually great cultural diversity, languages and worship styles…but they each hold to their own brand.

What if N.E. Church, the congregations under one roof set aside their human ego and actually became one faith family? Where diversity of culture, language and worship existed as one? Where monies were pooled to streamline costs, and used to drive out reach for the broader communities youth, children, seniors and working poor…or those families that fall between the gaps due to hiccups in monies… What if we moved to a model in these new unified Community Faith Families that saw us set aside pastor pays to a truly tent making model where pastors worked elsewhere and members of the congregations became equally equipped for spiritual direction, pastoral care, teaching and preaching?

What if???

Questions to be asked, as more churches enter life support but won’t step outside ego to surrender their denominational identity to truly make a change for the positive…