Creating Space

by Danielle Merseles, Director of Youth and Families

I grew up in a small Lutheran church right around the corner from my high school. It was the same church my mom got confirmed in, my parents got married in, and my sister and I got baptized in. For my family growing up, church was full of familiar faces and families.

The other day I found myself on the phone with one of my best friends growing up. She and I met in 2nd grade Sunday School, Mrs. G’s class. We would eventually go to the same high school, but she was my friend long before we saw each other on in the school cafeteria. We had memorized the Lord’s Prayer side by side. We sung in fancy dresses on special Sundays. In 5th grade, we co-starred in the Christmas pageant as Angel #2 and Angel #4, with matching sparkly wings. We went through confirmation class together and both got asked to acolyte on Christmas Eve, which was a pretty big deal to us at age 14. After we were confirmed, there was no Youth gathering or group or class. Instead she and I taught Sunday school. It was a rambunctious and sweet group of five year olds that changed my story. Suddenly, church wasn’t about just going through the motions or showing up when our parents were going. Church was a place that affirmed us and called us leaders. Church was a place where we were known, by adults, kindergarteners and kids our age. Church fostered our growth as believers and brought us into the larger family of Christ, one that is not bound by age or segregated by group.

Ministering to the youth of Bethany isn’t just my role. It’s yours too. Sure, the pastors and weekly leaders were important to my faith development as a teenager. However, just as important were the adults who said “hi” to me on Sundays, or sat next to me when my family didn’t attend church with me that week. I loved being called out by name with a smile in fellowship hall and asked about my life by parents of the elementary schoolers in my Sunday School class. It is the privilege of all of us, the whole body of the church to welcome, affirm, and create a space where our students belong.

As I begin my first fall at Bethany, I want to invite you to partner with me in loving students in our family at Bethany. Sure, email me if you want to be a leader, either midweek or on Sunday mornings. Email me if you want to provide a snack for students or a meal for youth leader gatherings.

What I would long for, most of all, is your prayers. There are so many pressures, expectations and anxieties facing these amazing children of God and their families.

This fall we are talking about God’s story of relentless love through many passages of Scripture. I would love you to pray for all students to experience God’s relentless love in their daily lives and develop a deeper relationship with him. I would ask you to boldly pray that the love they experience inside the body of the church would be reflected into their classrooms during the week and would transform their world.

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