The Word became flesh, and lived among us. We saw his glory, such glory as of the one and only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 (WEB)
Emily Capes, Director of Youth Ministries at First United Methodist Church, Pensacola, FL took some time in her busy schedule and to share her heart for the young adults and the ministry to which God has called them.
BSP: As a youth pastor, what is your focus with your group of young people?
EMILY CAPES: My focus is to have a team of adults who grow in their understanding of teenagers and then build one on one relationships with my students. So that they grow to know a God -who is not a product that will take all of their problems away but is a living, moving, existence who will walk with them and talk with them and call them to live a life that is greater than they can even imagine. We live in a culture where everything is being sold to us in a way that we believe that we will be happy when we buy into the product. Even Jesus is packaged this way in many ministries.
BSP: You are in a large church so do you find “keeping the focus” more difficult?
EMILY CAPES: I do find that “keeping the focus” is harder in a larger church. I know that some students have slipped through the cracks because we weren’t able to connect with them because there are so many kids at different functions. I do try very hard to have as many adults walking alongside of the students to try to be present to as many as possible.
Also, as a larger church – there is an expectation to do things well. And that means better organized planned activities and programs. Which means that we have to be incredibly intentional to not miss the individuals in the process. Organization is not a bad thing but it shouldn’t be the first thing over relationships with students. Students aren’t always organized. They need your attention when you feel like you should be “doing” something…
BSP: What tools do you use to reach your young people?
EMILY CAPES: Some of the tools are typical ones – videos, internet, current worship music, games, go to dance recital and sporting events, meet for breakfast or coffee, communicate on Facebook or texting and stay current with the things in their culture. Other than that – what they really need is people who have the time to be present to them. It doesn’t really matter what you do or use as long as they know that we are truly interested in them.
BSP: How has the ‘new’ ICON service has reached (or not) the youth?
EMILY CAPES: Our students do use worship music as part of our Sunday evening activities – but I wouldn’t call it a worship “service”. But I do believe that we worship there – through song and conversation and service to our community. Many students do come to ICON but I believe that ICON has impacted the youth ministry by bringing in new families with students who are slowly starting to get involved.
BSP: What can we as parents, church leaders, and older adult members of Christ’s Body do to encourage our young adults to “grow up in the admonition of the Lord”?
EMILY CAPES: Honestly, what we as adults need to do is live out our faith alongside of the students’ lives. So many churches put the young people in another building so they can have their own space to play in, mess up and “do their own thing” – which might seem like a good idea but honestly it removes them from some of the best examples of the Body of Christ. I believe it would also strengthen the church to involve the students in more aspects of all of the church ministries. We as adults can also learn from seeing Christ lived out in the teenagers lives as well.