REACHING & DISCIPLING (vision for presbytery of Derry and Donegal youth)

Hi, so a month ago i was asked to be convener (in-charge of) the youth (13-25) in the area of Derry and Donegal for the Presbyterian Church here, so most of my thinking lately has been around this. i’ve felt frustrated, overjoyed and over burdened all at once and even thinking that what i’m asked to do is an awesome chance for influence and for creating a culture of discipleship and mission in our churches in the NW of Ireland.  anyway i was presenting my vision to the ministers and Elders tonight, just home and thought i’d up load it for some thoughts etc!!! 
would appreciate your prayers (if you’re the praying kind) and your thoughts (by commenting or FB or email) 
this is my presentation more or less word for word (i had response sheets and powerpoint of course also) 
standing on Grace! 

Moderator and folk:

The 2nd book of the Bible, we know it by it greek name ‘Exodus’, that name only came around 300BC, before that it had a Hebrew title, they called it ‘Names’. Though this was a story of a movement of 2m people out of Egypt and into, eventually, the promise land, God knew all their names!  Think of Romans, the apostle Paul taking us through the big sweep of salvation yet look at the last chapter, “greet Priscilla and Aquila, Epenetus and Mary”. Or even the whole gospel of John where John makes it clear that Jesus wanted to engage in conversation with the individual and small groups, God didn’t send His son to dictate from the top of Mt Everest, no, the word became flesh and moved right into the village.
So youth ministry is not about finding a program for the average youth club size multiplied by the number of churches we have in this presbytery but about it’s about Lauren Ferguson, Paul Lamberton, Robert Edwards, Fiona Alexander, Keith Blackburn, Joshua Carr, youth ministry is about David Chambers. 
Not only is this a deeply Biblical idea but also a rooted presbyterian idea, that when Daniel was Baptised in Fahan (my) Church I promised not as a youth leader, not as an Exodus staff member not as a friend but as a member of the same church that I would ensure that he was given a chance at accepting Jesus as Lord.

Since I’ve been asked me to consider this role there has been a roller-coaster of thought and conversations. We all know the challenges and where we are at the moment, so I’ll not concentrate our time on that or on those conversations instead I’ll try to present the vision, the big dream, of which you have a vital input into today, and then I and others will think how do we start small in achieving this!

2 things things to watch out for:

  • That youth work doesn’t become the evangelical wing of the presbytery, it’s the ministers job to ensure the church is Christ centered.  The youth work will help this happen but it’s not it’s role.
  • That youth work is not a separate issue from normal church life.  It has to be woven into the fabric of Church structure. 

Mission statement.
I find having something to focus us helps the work not bounce around.  But stay on target.

So here’s what I believe this role should focus on.

‘To encourage the Church, in reaching and discipling young people (13-25), in their area, in the grace, truth and example of Jesus.’

We need to see the church’s youth ministry looking outward, we’d all agree that we need to see it growing, we need to see Jesus being declared King of more and more young lives in our communities.

Our Reached or church youth to have a deeper faith, we need to see young people fully embracing the life of Christ, and this is happening there’s young people praying prayers that I’d love to hear pastors pray, and they have vision and they’re passionate about getting equipped to see this vision take place

We need to see youth ministry as part of the fabric of the church.  We need to see youth ministry connecting with the sacraments, something that the whole church is involved in.  And we also need to be part of the local body of Christ.  

I am more of a Kingdom advocate than a denomination advocate.  
We need to see the Presbyterian Christian’s in Letterkenny getting to know, worshiping and serving along side the Baptist church, Portuguese, the Christian fellowship.  As these are the guys they go to school with, will go to uni with, will get jobs along side, and will marry.  
Why take your youth from Ballykelly to worship and fellowship with other christians from donegal town and forget about the Christian who meet under a methodist banner across the street?  In saying that I understand the need for Presbyterian events and ethos to be promoted and attended however I thought I would slightly over state my case to make the point clear.  ‘The EDGE’ in Letterkenny is the best example of an inter-church group focused on deepening the faith and sense of community in the Christian youth in that area, and around half of the organizers of ‘The EDGE’ are Presbyterian.

So practically How does this look?
Some of this will be organized and envisioned by the working group and may change, be extended or reduced, from my proposal but here we go.  My main role is influence.  We want to see young people being reached and discipled in every church including our own and your own. 

Mentoring program:
To be introduced into churches for first communicants, so this young person is brought up in the church or reached by the church, professes Christ, and they are a Christian. (I know that’s slightly controversial here but for the sake of Vision I had to pretend that someone who goes forward for communion wants to continue in the life of Christ) Then after the first communion a member of church, (preferable not a youth leader), walks with the young Christian for a while. Say, meeting up every week for 4 months then intentionally less often, they shows them the ropes, like their Christian coach, prays for them, walks with them and finds out their gifts and passes that on to the session who can then use those gifts in the ongoing mission of the Church.

360 Network 
Initiate a network of the main Christian youth influencers (principles, youth leaders, BB/GB) Learning community, dedicated to the Vision and Values of Jesus, Learning from each other and creating a culture of youth Discipleship in our Schools, Churches and programs.

Localised inter-church events
Letterkenny – ‘the EDGE’

Derry and strabane – need for one there
Ballykelly – (not familiar with things up there so can’t comment too much)
Donegal Town – Possible need

Training and resourcing events 4/5 in year… Small group, mentoring, child protection, outreach, how to push your youth club deeper

Outreach festivals
Could be facilitated by the wider body but working for the indivdual churches.

So say Strabane here wanted to do intentional outreach here in Strabane town we could organise a day festival with them helping them reach youth here in strabane.

1 Presbytery Youth night (for youth fellowship folk)
Professional event, youth to receive opportunities to share testimonies etc in local events this has got a bit of a wow factor to it!  It’s big.

1 Presbytery sports night (for youth club folk)
To give some youth clubs a sense of outing, and to help non-church youth in youth clubs to feel a part of the church and to here the gospel

Spud Youth night bus
We’ll run a bus; if you send the youth.

Possibly camps, Weekends, social events like festive feast (that Kilfenen young adults organise.


So that’s the vision as I can see but I need your input, and advice!

So if you’d like to get into groups of 4 and answer the questions I’ll guild you through:

  1. What are you most passionate to see happen, that was presented in the vision? And why?
  2. How could we as a group serve you in your area in Reaching and Discipling young people?
  3. How can we together make the Vision of Reaching and Discipling work in Derry and Donegal

Any questions that people would like to ask vocally? Or comments.

Thanks; you are more fruitful than you realise.

I would appreciate your prayers for this.


3 responses to this post.

  1. Hey Andy,

    This sounds really good. I like you focus on the individual (which can be often missed in an over-programme based youth ministry), Mentoring and Discipleship. It’s also great your emphasis on networking, with other gospel focused denominations and churches…I’ll say a BIG amen to that!!!lol.
    Here, I’m home on the 16th onwards for Christmas and would love to chat to you (and most of all pray with you!) about this more, particularly about the mentoring, i.e. I think the godly elderly or even just ‘older’ in our churches are under appreciated and used for the Kingdom, one way is for influencing the youth of our day. But be great to chat to you about all this and what it means for you!!



  2. Posted by Jamie on December 9, 2011 at 3:00 am

    This is a thoroughly exciting vision man. Ricky is spot on – locating individual lives at the center of this vision is really encouraging to see in what is often times a “numbers” focused venture – the Church is not an institution and “youth work” is not a constituent part of that institution – the Church is a vibrant, vital living organism made up of wholly beloved members, a thriving network of relationships, human-human and human-God. By it God presents the symbol of a redeemed, renewed Humanity to a world that is slowly and painfully dying from broken relationships.

    I found this to be a particularly important statement: “we need to see youth ministry connecting with the sacraments.” This is a brilliant and fresh insight – I’m not sure you know quite how fresh it is – but it also presents a massive challenge. We know that the Church in general is failing to engage effectively with contemporary society. This is a problem that is obviously essential for us to address if we are to reach out effectively, especially to young people. This to me seems the most common “solution” to that problem: we abandon the “outdated” traditions of the church, strip back the Gospel to what we presume to be the essential “biblical” core and reconfigure that now liberated Gospel, imbedding it in forms and methods that seem relevant, contextual, appropriate for our postmodern, decentralized, secular world. This approach often finds its sharpest expression in youth ministry. What perhaps surprises me most is that many more “mature” Christians – Christians who have been nourished in the Church – seem to uncritically welcome this development in youth ministry under the misguided presumption that young Christians will eventually learn to embrace and become “Church” in what they consider more authentic, historical modes. Yet this is not only misguided it is dangerous. Increasingly a generation of young Christians are being fed and watered in contexts disconnected from “Sunday” Church life and as a result they are disconnected from the reality of congregational life. If they go to “services” at all it is often because they feel obliged by a sense that it is a necessary chore, not because they find in their “home churches” a connection to the beating heart of our rich, deep and ancient faith. Yet I believe the only way to create an authentic Christian culture is through communal participation in the sacraments of the historic Church. These are not mere tradition, something to be thrown out in order to “get the gospel across”. Baptism means participation in and conformity to the pattern of Christ’s life; his death, burial and resurrection. Worshiping together – young and old united in prayer and song – means continual reflection upon and rejoicing in the saving acts of God in Christ; past, present and future. Celebrating communion together means focusing on and forming our lives together around the central mystery of Christ’s Cross. There is no replacement for these central habit-forming, grace-imparting acts. When we get these essential elements right the path of discipleship becomes clearer to us all and many creative, truly contextual, prayer-informed, world-serving, God-glorifying ministries will flow from our congregations. I am convinced of that. We are wrong to look for renewal in other places.

    I know this is a long way away from what I was sharing with you only a few months ago about “liquid church” and “network churches” but my thinking concerning what it means to be “Church” in the 21st century is changing quickly and significantly these days. This obviously presents a challenge to you: success, if that is an appropriate word, I fear it isn’t, is in many ways dependent upon a wider work of congregational renewal. You will need to work for your young people to learn to love and participate in the congregational life of their Church families, and those Church families will in turn need to learn to be Church in increasingly authentic and faithful modes. This means commitment to the Biblical Text. This means dependence on the Spirit of God. This means listening to and not fearing the voice of tradition and tapping into the deep roots that have made and will continue to make us who we are – the Church of God, who, saved by his Grace, continually remember, re-embody and re-enact the life of Jesus Christ the Lord. These roots will include both Presbyterian and other traditions, but perhaps it wouldn’t be wise to push for the embracing of “other” traditions too early! You must make sure your work is not sidelined, is not detached from it’s only true home: the worshiping life of the whole Church present in the individual Congregations you have been called to serve. The mentor idea is a brilliant and suitably risky first step towards this.

    I know I’m not an “insider” in this: I’m not Presbyterian and I don’t live in Donegal or Derry, but I’m really excited by it all the same. Maybe I’ve completely misread your thoughts, but I hope these thoughts of mine help you in some way even if that’s by thinking through them and rejecting them. This work you have been called to is a real gift. Enjoy it man. I pray that God will move mightily in fresh and real ways that surprise us all!!


  3. Hi Andrew,
    Just dipped into this… need to read it more fully but I’m so impressed and grateful that you have been appointed to this important role.

    “We need to see youth ministry as part of the fabric of the church.” Yes, yes, yes!

    Lots of ideas, thoughts, prayers, winging through my mind. Too late to write more now but we’d love to do everything we can to support you on this, especially as we’re now “Presbyterian” youth leaders (helping out in Ray and sometimes in Newton).



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