Monday, February 15, 2010

youTheology: Youth Matter

I first heard about the youTheology program during my sophomore year of high school. My youth director approached me with this program where I would learn about some of the history of Methodism and it all ended in a trip to England. Learning about where my religious roots started had an appeal, but the major attraction was the trip to England. To this point in my life, I had never been out of the country, with the exception of a cruise to the Caribbean. I was not accepted my first year due to the number of applicants and my younger age. I was a little discouraged by this, but decided to apply the following year, which is the year I was admitted into the program.

After going through the program, the trip to England was pretty cool and I learned a lot about John Wesley and the beginnings of the Methodist church. For me the best part of the program was the relationships I developed. Going into the program, I knew there were four weekends and then the pilgrimage at the end. I was not sure this would be very much time to form deep and lasting relationships, but I was wrong. We all came together from different backgrounds, with different issues we were facing, but for those weekends, we were able to get away from our daily lives. We were able to come together with a common interest and just be ourselves. Those were very important relationships in my life and I think anyone who has been through the program would agree. Unfortunately we do not still have those structured weekends to get together and away from our daily lives so time passes by with little communication. But when something does pop up about someone, the memories come flooding in, and for that I am grateful.

youTheology has changed a lot over the past years since I went through. The focus of the study has gone from a United Methodist focus to Pan Methodist and the cherished trip to England has been moved to the states due to the shift in the focus. Though the curriculum and the pilgrimage have undergone changes, the most important part is still there, the relationships. Students are still able to get out of the grind of daily life and form lasting relationships with people they can lean on for support.

Many young people feel that they have no voice in the church, or their voice is too small and no one will listen to it. I felt this way. I felt like my opinion did not matter and I did not have as much experience as the adults around me, so they know more than I do. But over the years and with the help of youTheology I have realized that my thoughts and opinions are a big part of the life of the church. No one is too young or inexperienced to have an opinion and to share that opinion. It is important to have all the generations represented in order to have a healthy and successful church. Otherwise churches will die due to lack of new ideas and not attracting younger worshipers. I have always been an active member in my church: in youth group and the church choir. But, it was only recently that I started serving on committees within the church. I feel that it is important for me, as a younger person, to actively serve on committees in the church and share my ideas and opinions. So, that is what I am trying to do now.

I discovered while in youTheology that many people are called to serve in the church setting, but I have never felt that was the path for me. But I do know that regardless of my career path, God will use me in that place to minister to people. It just will not be in front of a church, but in a much smaller venue. I am currently working towards my Masters in Accounting and am excited to see how God will use me. I know God has a plan for my life and I know I will stumble along the way, but God has given me the tools I need to get through those struggles and people I can call on when I need a hand. I am truly blessed and thank God daily for all the wonderful things placed in my life by our amazing God!

Elizabeth Waterland
youTheology Alumna
Loving God, Loving Neighbor

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