Greetings from Daytona Beach!
Every four years since 1988, United Methodist youth from across the connection meet together for several days of worship, service opportunities, workshops, fellowship, and much more. Locations for the event rotate between the five jurisdictions of the UMC in America: Northeast, Southeast, South Central, North Central, and Western.
Christy and I committed to bring students from Grace UMC Sherman to Youth 2023 more than a year ago, well before we knew we were moving to Spring Valley. Miles and Linus are here too, plus other adults and youth. The Drenner family has pretty deep connections with this gathering. Christy attended Youth 2003 at Vanderbilt University in Nashville with students from Trinity UMC Denison. James attended Youth 2015 in Orlando with some buddies from Prosper UMC. Four of us accompanied Grace youth to Kansas City in 2019. This week we are back in Florida. I wonder where Youth 2027 will be? Will Spring Valley UMC send a group? I hope so!
The next two paragraphs are from a blog about the experience written by Youth 2023 leadership.
Our focus remains dedicated to the youth participants at YOUTH 2023, providing them an opportunity to experience a culture of welcome and belonging that will allow them to enjoy a sense of wonder about what God may do while we are together. We expect great diversity at YOUTH 2023. We come together from many different communities, life experiences, and belief structures to worship, fellowship, and learn more about being world-changing disciples. We have attendees from around the world and are so grateful for the chances we have to create brave spaces and learn more about each other as members of God’s family. Plan on meeting someone different from you and plan on learning something new from those fellow members of God’s family.Our theological approach at the event comes from the Methodist/Wesleyan family, and we are working diligently to ensure that valuable understandings of abundant and undeserved grace and the ability for us to show love and care for our neighbor are possible because of God’s love for humanity woven throughout YOUTH 2023. We fully believe that the diversity present at our event is a strength. We believe that the choice to focus on worship, fellowship, and discipleship will provide a chance for young people who would not normally interact with one another to laugh and learn about who they are as part of God’s family.
My journey in ministry began with students- when I was only a few years older than them! I have attended countless mission trips, Bridgeport camps, confirmation events, and so much more (although I am totally done with lock-ins; I need to sleep!). I love young people. After a season of disaffiliation in the United Methodist Church, it will feel good to be in the presence of thousands of UMC students. “Generation Z” is passionate about inclusion and welcome, and those churches that choose to exist in exclusionary places will find themselves more isolated and irrelevant than ever. These students are not the future of the church; they are the now. At Spring Valley and throughout the denomination, we need to be developing and empowering their leadership and getting out of their way.
See you in worship on Sunday as we wrap up the Reset sermon series.