One of the things that excited me about First Presbyterian Church of Ashland when I was in the interview process, was the possibility of starting up something similar to what my friend, the very Right Rev. Greg Bolt, helped to start up in Bend, Oregon. Lutherans, Episcopals and Presbyterians have gotten together up in Bend to form the Bend Youth Collective. Their tagline is: “3 Churches-1 Community, 3 Traditions-1 Faith, 3 Histories-1 Future.”
I love the idea of churches coming together to form ecumenical groups, bringing kids together to do this important ecumenical (and interfaith: like the Interfaith Works event I organized last spring) work, so that it can build the groundwork of community and focusing on similarities (rather than differences) amidst other youth.
So, we are working toward that by creating the Ashland Youth Collective (we loved the Bend Youth Collective’s idea, and name, so much that we just decided to go a very similar route as they did; it’s okay – we checked with some of their leaders first). We are currently partnering with a Methodist and UCC church here in town, but there is also the possibility of working with the Episcopal and the Unitarian churches in town.
We had our first Ashland Youth Collective event last Sunday. We had almost 20 youth show up, and take part in a night of food, fun and fellowship (pretty standard youth group stuff here). We did some ice-breakers, got kids talking with one another, played cornhole (naturally!) and foursquare, and after two hours, they didn’t really seem to want to go home. Some of their parents actually joined in on the foursquare fun with us. All in all – it was a wonderful night with a lot of energy.
Was it a total fluke, and will our grand experiment fail? Maybe. I don’t know – but it seems like there is a lot of interest in partnering together here in Ashland, and the various communities we’ve partnered with, have partnered together on various ministries in the past, so it makes sense that we bring our youth together to form this ecumenical, community youth group.
Have you had any experience with such groups? What’s worked for you? What’s been hard about these types of youth groups?