I am writing in the wake of "Survivor: Artaban" held March 27-29. This was the most ambitious and, arguably, most successful Diocesan youth event since I began youth ministry work in 2001. Over 80 youth and youth leaders from 20 parishes attended and explored themes of self worth, personal faith, church community and social justice. Some, for the first time, were able to experience Camp Artaban, a true treasure of the Diocese.
While many minds worked together to plan and implement Survivor, it was only possible because of the administrative time and effort spent by Phil Colvin, our newly minted Diocesan Youth Coordinator. Phil spent many hours building connections with youth contacts at parishes across the Diocese and producing marketing materials that were well beyond the scope of our considerable volunteer resources.
As reported on the diocesan web site and in TOPIC, Diocesan Council has decided to eliminate the Youth Coordinator position due to investment revenue shortfalls brought on by the global economic meltdown. I believe the decision to cut this position to be a mistake.
One of the strongest arguments for the paid position was to provide continuity to and to smooth over the cyclic tendencies of youth ministry in the Diocese. This message was heard and affirmed unanimously at Synod 2006 when the motion to form this position first passed, reaffirmed in 2007 and finally made into reality with the passing of the budget in 2008.
In fact I was quite concerned in the summer of 2008 that the "movement" that had been so strong in the aftermath of Synod 2007 would burn out with a majority of the core members moving on for school or jobs or new phases of life. Phil was able to rebuild this team to its strongest level ever, with as many as 12 youth, youth workers and clergy now involved directly in the Diocesan Youth Ministry Unit leadership team.
We have just begun to realize the effectiveness of the coordinator position. A community takes a long time to build and a lot of effort to maintain. While the experiences of the individuals who participated in the activities this year are indelible, the position was always about the longer term goal of creating a sustainable, thriving Diocesan youth ministry. The best solution is a paid, experienced coordinator backed by a group of dedicated volunteers. We have this today.
I believe that youth are an integral part of our faith community. Today, they are a vibrant, insightful group of people who are making decisions about their spiritual journey that will affect them for the rest of their lives. I have personally worked with many extraordinary young people over the last eight years. I can say with confidence that many of them will be community leaders in the future.
Furthermore, a thriving Diocesan youth ministry doesn't just support teens. It also ministers to their families and to parish youth leaders. It is in the best interest of this Diocese to invest in our youth and families in a way that sets the example for how we hope they will invest in the Church in the future.