Today's guest post is from Janice Ogoshi from Hawaii Kai United Church of Christ. Yep, they're in Hawaii. Someone has to do ministry there, you know.
Our church was at one time known as “The Camping Church.” In the early years of our congregation, camps were a regular part of the life of the church. Five or six times a year, the church family would pitch tents and spend time together at a campsite near the beach.
Susan, one of the organizers of these campouts, explained the reason behind these frequent excursions to the beach. She told me that they wanted the children to develop relationships not only with their peers, but also with adults in the congregation. “We wanted our children to feel comfortable talking to adults. We knew that sometimes, teens can’t or won’t talk to their parents about things going on in their lives. But they might talk to ‘Aunty’ or ‘Uncle’ at church. Camp provided the opportunity for those relationships to be built.”
This deliberate attempt to connect our children with the wider church family is bearing fruit as the children have grown into young adults. Some have gone away to college and returned, now to take on responsibilities in church. There are other churches in town that have large young adult ministries and have a worship style that is more appealing to twenty-somethings. But our young adults are returning in part because of the relationships they have with the older adults.
This is their church. And they are now becoming the mentors to the next generation.
Julie and Melissa lead the Hospitality Ministry Team. They are recruiting and training our greeters, making sure our guests feel welcomed on Sunday mornings. Aaron, Lauren and Julie are on the Music Ministry Team, leading singing during worship. Dean, Lauren, Melissa, Mandy and Aaron have taught Sunday School classes. Dean is currently serving as our church moderator.
Because we are not a large membership church, our activities have always been family-oriented and multi-generational. Camps, hikes, movie nights, service activities are all open to everyone. During these activities, the children and youth are exposed to the rich faith lives of the many adults in our congregation. It is not unusual to see the adults asking the youth how they are doing in school or on their sports teams or whether they have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Adults will often tell the youth that they are praying for them. Their interest in the lives of our children and youth show in their attentiveness and willingness to engage in conversations. While giving his testimony, one teen shared that he had a committee of church aunties and uncles who were ready to screen any potential girlfriends. Many other volunteers came forward to ask to serve on this committee!
While our camps are now held less frequently, the idea of building relationships among all the members of our church family across generations continues in the life of our church. It is not programmed, but rather a natural part of church life. God is using these relationships to enrich the faith of all our members.