BY SARAH BIRD
2021 has brought forth a new, exciting, and spirit filled energy as we introduced faith forma- tion programs for all ages within the diocesan children, youth, and family ministry umbrella.
Leading up to the new year a few virtual gatherings were offered to determine what individuals were looking for in terms of faith spaces for chil- dren, youth, and young adults.
With virtual fatigue on the rise as families balance working from home, navigation of online learning, and lock down restrictions, we carefully connected with families to find out how we could best support them and their children. Quickly it became evident across all age groups that people were hungry for new connections, freedom and safety to explore some difficult questions, and a space to be themselves.
When the first lockdown took place in 2020 two virtual youth groups as well as the young adult program (The Table) were quickly formed. God was so profound throughout those gatherings as new communities were built, new friendships forged, and a deeper understanding of faith grew as we explored the life of Jesus. Understanding how important these virtual gatherings were for both the participants and the volunteer leaders helped shape the new faith formation virtual programs for 2021.
The three new programs launched early January were Junior Youth Connections (JYC) for youth ages 10–13, Youth Alpha for youth ages 13–17, and Sparking Children’s Faith (weekly bible lessons) for school aged children. The number of participants for these programs continues to grow, and the positive outpouring from parents, guardians, and volunteers has been unbelievably encouraging. There are participants who have joined from every corner of the diocese which has beautifully banded us together as a diocesan family.
Fruitful dialogues have included questions such as: if you could ask God one thing what would you say? What is prayer? What did Jonah smell, see, and hear inside the whale’s belly? Why is the pandemic happening? Does the Easter Bunny know Jesus?
In each program we ask participants to help determine what they would like to see, learn, and offer during our time together. This provides a sense of ownership and encourages personal growth and leadership amongst the virtual communi- ties. Each program is tailored slightly differently depending on the age group, but all have a common thread that weaves together questions, sharing of life experiences, and creating time for fun.
God has led us through new doors of innovation and creativity that has forever changed the landscape of how we gather children, youth, and young adults. Virtual gatherings continue to break down barriers, provides a sense of safety and comfort, and builds trusting relationships amongst the members. These foundational elements will create a very special moment in time once we can all gather again in person. Relationships with Jesus and each other will continue to grow as we continue to uplift and support each other in the months ahead.
To learn more about the programs and initiatives of children, youth, and family ministry please visit: niagaraanglican.ca/cyfm