I finally found it! That faith-deepening experience that I probably couldn’t have told you I was looking for as a high school or college student, but from which I would have greatly benefitted.
You see, I was that Church girl (and I still am)—serious about life, committed to faith (even though I don’t always know what that means), ravenous for divine purpose, and never quite satisfied with the depth and intentionality of Church . Please don’t misunderstand me—Church has been a positive, life-long experience for me. I’m grateful for the youth group that helped raise me, and I like to have as much fun as the next person. (Ok, maybe the next person likes to have a little more fun.) But, as a young person especially, I always felt slightly isolated in my longing for more—deeper knowledge, holistic Scripture, richer relationships, greater opportunities to serve, more of God in general. This isn’t all young people, but it was me. And I know that today, right now, there are young people out there who feel the same.
Hindsight, I can see that I lacked the language, maturity, and self-awareness to articulate what I wanted. No, what I needed. But God is good. Because what I did have was a congregation and college full of caring adults who noticed it, nurtured it (despite my ability to ask for it), and taught me to name it and claim it for myself. I am confident that they would have strongly urged me to participate in some formal, long-term, faith-deepening opportunity.
The bad news is that it didn’t exist then.
The good news is that it does now! And I’m convinced the Church will be better for it.
The BeADisciple Academy is a deeper exploration of God, Self, and Call for high school and college students. It is a global, online, faith-building fellowship for high school or college students that want to go deeper in their faith lives and leadership skills. During the length of a school calendar, we will:
• Deepen our relationship with our Creator through study and discussion of Scripture.
• Realize the unique gifts God has created in us through leadership development initiatives.
• Discover how we might best use our gifts to serve others through hearing the “call” stories of others Christians.
And we will do it all within the context of community—a small group of peers, the wider academy participants, an adult mentor within our local faith communities, to name a few. Through all kinds of interactive, web-based media (including social media), this community will encourage us to form faithful habits of the spiritual disciplines; expose us to a variety of people and locations of the world we might not otherwise encounter; and provide us a supportive network of like-minded people who are committed to seeing God’s Kingdom come on Earth. There is SO much transformative potential here.
Oh, and one more member of your community? Me. Because while I may have missed my chance to experience the Academy as a participant, I refuse to miss out on accompanying each young person on their faith-deepening journey as the Academy Director. I can’t think of anything that thrills me more.
My personal experience tells me that it takes years of sustained searching and practice to become familiar with God, Self, and Call. And there is no rule stating those years are reserved for adulthood. They can be now, as long as you desire it. Not every young person will be ready, but the Church has to do something for those who are. Because while young people may be tomorrow’s Church leaders, they are today’s Church too.
To hear more from Leah, and to learn more about the BeADisciple Academy, go here.
Leah Hartman is a stay-at-home-mom who serves part-time as the Coordinator of Young Adult Ministry at First United Methodist Church in Winfield, KS and an Adjunct Faculty for Southwestern College Professional Studies. She loves people and learning, reading and writing, music and dance, coffee and laughing. She blogs at leah-hartman.com/. Leah lives in Geuda Springs, KS with her husband, Caleb, and their daughter, Claire.
I have a similar story, just add 30 more years. Well written and well said.