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    United Methodists of Upper New YorkLiving the Gospel. Being God's Love.

    news article

    From the desk of Bishop Mark J. Webb: Focusing on children and youth

    May 3, 2022 / By Bishop Mark J. Webb

    But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” – Matthew 19.14

    “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” – Deuteronomy 6.4-9

    I am blessed to say that I grew up in the Church. Some of my earliest memories are from the Sunday School rooms and sanctuary of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Williamsport, Pa. It was in that church that women and men invested in me. They lived before me a life of following Jesus Christ. They taught me how to pray, study the Bible, and understand the depth of God’s love for me. When I reached my teen years, my family returned to my mom’s childhood church, now known as St. John’s United Methodist Church. Once again, I was blessed to be surrounded by women and men who showed me the way of Jesus, through Sunday School, youth fellowship, choirs, scouting, summer camp, and mission trips.

    The willingness of two congregations to invest in ministries to children and youth changed my life and set my life toward God’s purpose for me. I was invited to know the depth of God’s love through Jesus Christ, to step into the call of Jesus to follow Him and then be equipped to serve Him and offer the promise and truth of God’s love to those around me. I wasn’t just told I was the future of the Church; I was reminded that I was a part of the Church.

    The opportunity to offer the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the children and youth of our communities continues today. In a time when many congregations lament the lack of children and youth present in the life of their church, there are great possibilities for how the Church can renew a commitment to engage the lives of young people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and invite them to be a part of the Church.

    I understand the challenges. I have been part of the conversations about why ministry to children and youth seems so hard today. Families are busy; kids aren’t interested; sports and other activities interfere; we don’t have any young families in our church. These are indeed challenges, but the church has always had to adapt to the shifting nature of the culture and seek the new ways in which God calls and desires to work within and through our lives.

    The Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Church of Jesus Christ offer exactly what young people are yearning and searching for – significance, relationship, and truth. The Church must enter anew into the battle for the minds, hearts, and spirits of our children and youth in ways we have not for a long time. Our culture and world are ready to fill the void within the lives of those seeking significance, relationship, and truth. Understand me, there are some good things being offered, but there are also some very dangerous things shaping and informing our children and youth. Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ offers the fullness of purpose for which every person was created and the way of life that results in eternal significance.

    This issue of The Advocate celebrates ministry among and with children and youth happening within our congregations. The pages that follow share ways in which you can engage in ministry to children and youth, with examples of resources and strategies. Take advantage of what is offered here. Reach out to someone to learn more, seek assistance, or engage in a partnership that will help your church strengthen or begin ministry with young people.

    I encourage you to keep going deeper in your journey of discipleship. Disciple the grandparents and the parents among you and you will disciple children and youth.

    As the Church nurtured you and me, we now can do the same for our children and grandchildren. As the Church invited you and me to know the love of Jesus Christ, be transformed by that love, offer that love to others and be a part of carrying out the purpose of the Church, we now are given the chance to invite our children and grandchildren to do the same.

    What is God calling you to be and do to reach the next generation for Jesus? How does your church invite children and youth to be a part of the journey of following Jesus? Be bold and step into God’s call. Don’t look at what seems impossible; look to what God promises as possible.

    We are committed to preparing our children and the children of the world for a better future in every aspect of their lives. It seems like we hold back nothing. My prayer is that as followers of Jesus Christ we will be as committed to preparing them for what truly matters – a heart changed by the love of God; a life following Jesus and a commitment to being the Church that through the power of the Gospel will transform the world!

    TAGGED / Advocate

    With more than 100,000 members, United Methodists of Upper New York comprises of more than 675 local churches and New Faith Communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our vision is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."