It has been several months since our own dear Ryan Sato “got religion” (or something) and left the position of CBWC Youth Director to become the Senior Minister of First Baptist Edmonton. We miss Ryan but our interim youth worker Claire McLean has been a source of strength, encouragement and wise counsel as we transition and reflect on what a Youth Director might be in this next appointment. Claire is doing great work on a survey and consulting piece (Claire is an engineer by training, has an MCS, and was on staff at Trinity Vancouver) and creating a collaborative process to determine the next phase of our youth ministry. Claire is partnering with Joell Haugan in Swift Current for this year’s SERVE. I have put several questions to her and here’s what she said:
Claire, first of all, thanks for doing this.
What is SERVE?
Serve is an annual summer event for teenagers. It’s a chance for our young people from Canadian Baptist Churches in the West to gather together as a family for a week. During this time we bless the community in which we are staying and enjoy quality teaching and worship together. The event is called ‘SERVE’ because it is our desire to share the good news in the area we go to by providing practical help with no strings attached. In a time when young people are often perceived as selfish and Christians as ‘selling’ something; SERVE is essentially an enactment of the free gift of love given to us by God.
When and where has it been held?
SERVE traditionally takes place during the second or third week in July, in a community in Western Canada (as this enables more teenagers to participate and promotes the idea that missions can happen on your own doorstep). In the past we have partnered with our Canadian Baptist churches in Yellowknife, NWT (2007); Victoria, BC (2006); Prince Albert, SK (2005) and Edmonton, AB. We have found partnering with a church in a smaller community to be most helpful in terms of impact and follow-up – when the teenagers leave their work is clearly visible, yet connections to the community remain in the ongoing work of the local congregation.
How many people are usually involved?
Lots and lots and lots! When we go to a community we need significant support from the local church. Many volunteers give of their time not only during the week, but in the months leading up to SERVE. Members of the local congregation organise logistics such as accommodation, work projects and food. They also co-ordinate with local leaders and municipal authorities. Some provide prayer support, local transport or supplies/help for various work projects. Then there are the youth leaders who mobilise the teenagers and work alongside them, ensuring projects are completed safely and adequately. This is in addition to the Youth Leadership Team, which oversees travel, registration and the evening program of worship and teaching.
There is usually a limit of 200 youth. Is that true this year?
Not this year! Joell Haugan the Pastor of Swift Current Community Baptist Church has told us that we can bring as many teenagers, as want to come. The more the merrier is the motto, and the more work projects we can accomplish in the surrounding community. Of course, Joell can only say this because of the great team of people he has helping him from his congregation!
What is this year’s theme?
This year we have Riley Armstrong coming to be our speaker and to lead worship. He will be speaking on our unique identity and worth in Christ. This ties in with our theme verse for this year from 1 Peter 4:10. “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards fo God’s grace in its various forms.”
When is 2009 SERVE?
This year SERVE 2009 will take place from 12th-18th July in Swift Current, Saskatchewan.
What is a general outline of what’s happening?
Sunday July 12th youth are invited to worship with the congregation at SCCBC. Registration will take place in the afternoon with SERVE officially beginning with our evening celebration. Then beginning on Monday the teenagers will split into work parties during the day and go to various pre-arranged sites to carry out their projects. Projects include revamping community buildings such as a library or ice-rink and upkeep of public places to prevent them from falling into disrepair. At the end of each day the teens return to Swift Current in the late afternoon for showers and dinner before joining together for worship and teaching in the evening. On Wednesday the teenagers will have the afternoon and evening free to explore Swift Current or take a trip to the lake with their youth leader. Also, the Thursday evening worship and teaching time will be replaced by an open air concert (hosted by Riley) with an open invitation to any local teenagers to join us. After a hard week of work and a good breakfast on Saturday morning the teens will be back on the road for the trip home, hopefully sharing stories and memories of a life-changing week.
What are your hopes and dreams for this time?
Teenagers want to do something to change the world and my hope is that those who participate in SERVE will leave knowing they have made a difference in the life of another person. Even if they don’t receive any recognition I would hope that they would gain a sense of satisfaction from reaching out beyond themselves and giving to complete strangers. I would also hope that this would result in the teenagers reaching out to their friends and neighbours when they return home. More than that it would be wonderful if members of the church in Swift Current could accompany our teens on their projects and establish relationships with the locals that would last well beyond July 18th when our young people leave the region.
How can we pray for you and others involved in SERVE?
For an ongoing united witness among Christians in Swift Current (other churches have offered to house groups of our teenagers on their premises for the week).
For good communication: between youth leaders, the YLT and myself/Nadia; and between myself/Nadia and the team in Swift Current.
For enough leaders to provide adequate supervision for all the teens who want to come.
That the challenges of co-ordinating various groups would be met.
That individuals would receive the information they require to carry out their role.
Since SERVE happens in a different location each year and with an entirely new group of co-ordinators that nothing would get missed in the myriad of organizational details that need to be covered.
For wisdom in matching groups with other groups and projects.
For safety, as teens travel to Swift Current from all across Western Canada and then as they travel to various work sites during the week and carry out projects that require various tools and equipment. For good relationships between the local community and the local church in Swift Current. That the local community would be blessed by our presence. That the work projects we carry out would hold value for the community and that our teenagers would be able to see that. That the youth leaders who accompany the teens would have opportunities to connect with them during the week and take them deeper in their journey of faith. That Riley would speak into the lives of our teens the truth of the Gospel in a way in which they can receive it.
Claire and I will write a more expansive update on the CBWC mandate and process after the June CBWC board meetings.