Adam Walker Cleaveland is a name I’ve run across several dozen times over the past 8 years or so. I first “met” Adam through Diana Butler Bass at VTS. I’ve never spoken to Adam, nor do I imagine he has a clue who I am, but I’ve long admired his work over at pomomusings.com. On his blog today, Adam shared the story of the newly formed Ashland Youth Collective, “a Progressive, Community Youth Group in Ashland, OR” whose declared mission is: “We are a collective of youth in the Rogue Valley, with welcoming and affirming open doors, seeking a better understanding of God and Jesus while serving others and having fun with open hearts.”
I found Adam’s post to be exciting, not just for youth ministry, but as the Church (capital C) catholic (lowercase c) seeks a way forward in this collective Acts 8 Moment. Collaborative Ministry, in small towns like Ashland, OR or Foley, AL and even in transitioning neighborhoods like South East DC, seem to make a whole lot of sense in a world of belt tightening. I’ll let Adam explain:
“I think that ecumenical and collaborative youth ministry really is the way forward, especially for smaller churches. When I first arrived here, we’d have youth groups that would range from between 1 and 8 or 9 kids. The other churches had a few youth who attended, but didn’t have active youth ministry programs.
Simply put, we could do more together. We could be better together. In my experience in youth ministry, I think critical mass is key! This isn’t to say that if just a couple kids show up for something, that it wasn’t worth doing. But in order to gain some energy and get kids excited and interested about coming to youth group, I think you must have critical mass. We didn’t have that at the Presbyterian Church. And none of the other churches did. But now, when we’ve joined together, we do. And kids are inviting their friends…something that really wasn’t happening before.
Aside from critical mass, it makes sense in a small town like Ashland, where almost all of these kids go to the same middle school or high school, for these kids to see churches partnering together, and not getting caught up in ‘loyalty’ or ‘allegiance’ to our specific denominations. I think that sends a good message for a group of children and youth for whom denominational loyalty won’t even exist.”
I agree with Adam, and would like to expand his thoughts to say that ecumencial and collaborative ministries really are the way forward. Is anyone out there doing this work? What is your experience? How has it worked and where are the hangups?