Resource offers spiritual formation for youth
Wednesday, May 30, 2018 at 08:14PM
TAP

By Sue Careless

A NEW ONLINE Anglican curriculum for teens has proven so successful it is now launching lessons for its third year this September.

The material is a free downloadable resource, making it accessible to even the poorest parish to use in its Sunday school or youth group. Youth leaders can log on, identify what lesson they want, then download and print as needed.  

Youth ministry faces a dilemma. It needs to be fun to attract teens but sometimes there can be so much fun that any actual teaching gets downplayed. This curriculum tries to strike a balance.

Kerry Dickson, who wrote the program, likes to think of it in terms of ‘engagement’ and ‘education.’

“Each lesson opens with an icebreaker or gathering activity of some kind: engagement. Programs for youth work best when there is a cohesive group of teens who enjoy being together, so lessons take group dynamics into account and offer lots of interactivity. But the core is really the content, which is approached with an eye to what I think are two of the biggest issues facing teens: identity and relationship.”

Indeed the first three lessons of Year One are titled, “Known,” Loved,” and “Destined,” and serve as a launch pad for the three-year series.

“We want to start by establishing an understanding that God knows us intimately, loves us unconditionally, and our future is in his hands. What could be more relevant?”

The program is called 622, the page number in the Book of Common Prayer that begins the short Order of Service for Young People. The series revives the use of this service, so the name seemed appropriate.

In a North American culture with its declining belief in God, declining biblical literacy and declining church attendance, spiritual formation is even more challenging, yet vital, for today’s youth.

“We’ve seen so many churches abandon a rich heritage and sound theology… this has churches shrinking and closing their doors at a faster rate than ever. We need to grow deeper roots rather than chasing after fads. I’d argue that this is as true for Christian education of children and adults as it is for youth. But what we’re hoping to do here is facilitate an experience of God – grounded in Scripture and tradition – that can help youth understand who they are in the context of that relationship. At the same time we want to equip them with the tools they will need to answer the questions posed by life, culture and critics of the faith – not just give them answers, but rather the tools, so that when the questions change (as they inevitably will), they’ll know how and where to find the answers.”

Dickson noticed a significant gap in programs available for the youth market.

“You’ll see a great deal available that I’d categorize as a theme-based evangelical approach and also a number of publications that are more on the progressive liberal side. I’m not saying that those publications don’t have their strengths – they do. But there’s a tendency on the one hand to focus heavily on contentious issues and on the other to fail to remain faithful to orthodox teaching. What we’re hoping to do here is offer a resource that is designed to guide teens into a lifelong practice of meaningful and biblically faithful devotion.”

While the curriculum has an ancient basis, drawing as it does on the BCP, it is also very modern.

“We start with the premise that we have this amazingly rich tradition in Anglicanism, one that is worth sharing. But we marry that with an approach that focuses on an exploration of identity in the context of our relationship with God. So lessons are packed with discussions that invite teens to go deeper, to spend time considering the meaning and relevance of these things. It’s important that the beautiful words of the Prayer Book become more for us than just words on a page.”

Each lesson starts with an icebreaker or gathering activity. This is followed by saying together a portion of the brief 622 service. The lessons themselves begin with group discussion and then move into an interactive Scripture study portion. Each lesson also contains a devotional At Home Challenge – generally a time of private prayer and reflection in which several prayers (not all from the BCP) are suggested and the teen can choose one or two to pray daily for the week.  

Dickson and the Prayer Book Society of Canada wanted to offer something that is “adaptable, that not only offers solid teaching but helps to facilitate great group dynamics – something that can be used successfully whether you’re in a portable church in the Yukon or an east coast cathedral.”

The curriculum is geared towards teens aged 12-16 and is designed to run the length of one school year in 42 lessons.

“People laugh at me when I say this, but it’s amazing how little you can actually cover in 42 lessons. Teens aren’t going to come out of this knowing their Prayer Books and Bibles inside out, but if they stick with the program, then they will have a foundation and, we hope, a hunger to grow more spiritually. The flow of the Year One lessons goes from exploring the underlying relationship of prayer, to looking specifically at the types of prayer that we have in the Prayer Book (collects, confessions, intercessions and so on). We’ve got a section exploring ‘the Christian back-story’ that coincides with Advent, and one that explores the Eucharist during Lent. The concluding post-Easter unit looks a bit more deeply at what it means to live in ‘newness of life.’

622 is not a Catechism. There are a number of resources that cover that need. “Christian education is so much bigger than going through a confirmation process,” says Dickson. “622 doesn’t seek to replace Catechesis; it’s definitely an ‘alongside’ offering.”

In 2015 a number of churches ‘test drove’ the completed lessons and provided feedback to ensure that the end result was as effective, engaging and user-friendly as possible. And being an online resource, it can be easily revised and updated over time. 

Leaders can download their own PDF notes for each lesson and are encouraged to cut and paste and adapt the lessons as they feel would best suit their group.    

The project grew out of a conversation between the Prayer Book Society of Canada – in particular, Toronto Branch President Diana Verseghy – and Dickson, and the PBSC is sponsoring and underwriting it.

While the program has its greatest appeal in BCP parishes, it is also being embraced by a much wider group.

“In many of my conversations with peers, I’ve been surprised by the level of interest – and I’m referring here not just to non-BCPers, but to non-Anglicans. There are so many churches out there looking to go beyond ‘hot topic,’ theme-style teaching. So there’s this amazing potential.”

Dickson has an undergraduate degree in theology from Tyndale University College, experience in church administration and communications, and has been working with children and youth in various settings throughout her life.

She was raised in a “theologically-engaged, interdenominational Protestant home, where private devotion was modelled and considered important.”

“While I did attend Sunday school, I think there was an over-emphasis on entertainment as opposed to education, and being a serious-minded kid I actually found that frustrating. I think back now and feel a bit sorry for my teachers. But to be candid, my parents played a much larger role in my spiritual formation than church programming did.” 

When she was in her early twenties she visited St. Mary Magdalene’s in Toronto. It was her first experience of the Anglican liturgy and she “just fell in love with it. There was a solemnity, a depth and a beauty in worship that I’d been longing after for years.”

Year Three of 622 will be available in September. Years One and Two are already posted at www.prayerbook.ca/622.   TAP

 

THE SAINTS

The saints of the Church play an important role for us as examples, inspirations, and consolations (many of them being far from perfect). But there is so much more. Tracing our roots back to the beginning of the Church reminds us that our faith is apostolic and rooted in Christ. Looking to the saints enables us to take a step back and gain an eternal perspective on our own situations.

Moreover, the saints show us that God’s providence and power have been at work throughout the history of the Church. In every age the saints have met with challenges and temptations, just as we do today. Good leaders and bad leaders have always been present, and in conflict. No one in those moments could claim to know, except by faith, how history would record the issues of the day. But looking at their stories reminds us God has been faithful in the past, and he will be faithful to us today.

Please note that unit boundaries and lesson titles are still subject to change as the year takes shape.

 

A. BUILT TOGETHER

01.        Yesterday, Today, Forever

02.        Upon This Rock

03.        Providence

04.        Called To Be Saints (Cont’d on p. 5)

B.   EYEWITNESSES

05.        The Gospel Writers (You are Witnesses)

06.        St. John (Abide in his Love)

07.        St. Mary (Do whatever he tells you)

08.        St Andrew (How to feed 5,000)

09.        St Thomas (From Doubt to Devotion)

10.        St Mary Magdalene (From Grief to Joy)

11.        St Peter (How to Keep from Falling)

12.        St Paul (Our Labour is Not in Vain)

C.   FORMATION & STRUGGLE

13.        Polycarp

14.        Perpetua & Felicitas

15.        Alban

16.        Athanasius

17.        Augustine

18.        Monica

D. MONASTIC REVOLUTION

19.        Introduction: In the world, but not of it

20.        Basil

21.        Benedict

22.        Martin of Tours

23.        Hilda & Caedmon

24.        Bede

E.   GRACIOUSLY GIFTED

25.        Introduction: Graciously gifted

26.        Patrick

27.        Gregory the Great

28.        Margaret of Scotland

29.        Francis of Assisi

30.        Thomas Aquinas

31.        Joan of Arc

F.   REFORMATION ERA

32.        The Translators

33.        Thomas More

34.        Thomas Cranmer

35.        George Herbert

36.        John & Charles Wesley

G. UP TO THIS MOMENT

37.        William Wilberforce

39.        Charles Simeon

39.        Canadian Missionaries

40.        John Keble

41.        Florence Nightingale

42.        C.S. Lewis

Article originally appeared on The Anglican Planet (http://anglicanplanet.net/).
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