If you somehow stumbled upon our BYC blog you may be wondering what exactly the Bend Youth Collective is… short answer? A radically accepting and ecumenical youth ministry inviting young people into the peacemaking way of Jesus Christ.
My name is Leigh and in August of 2017 I began a position at the Bend Youth Collective. I work with Bend United Methodist Church and Nativity Lutheran as a youth director and simultaneously work as the associate director of the Bend Youth Collective.
I grew up in a traditional youth ministry in the 2000s in the southern US. I had a pretty open schedule. The most stressful part of my teenage life was who I would ask to prom and if I would get into the jazz band. I spent my Sunday mornings, Tuesday mornings, and Wednesday nights at church and was pretty much any youth director’s dream kid.
It seems that nowadays the average teenager has significantly more stress in their life: sports, school, homework, musical instruments, community service, college prep, jobs, church, family, friends, let alone potential romantic relationships, free time, or doing things just they actually want to do for fun. The teenager growing up in 2017 has significantly more pulls on their time than I did when I graduated in ‘07. And as such, it only makes sense that the ministry we seek to provide teenagers with should as well.
The last thing modern teenagers need is another program that asks for their brain power, muscle, and belief. Rather, it seems teenagers nowadays need instead a space, place, and grace to practice Sabbath.
The motto at BYC is “we love you already.” Our goal as youth ministers in BYC is to love the students under our care, with no agenda other than the expression of God’s radical love and acceptance. Our teenagers need not sign a statement of belief, come to church every Sunday, or even believe in God. They are not shamed for missing worship or not knowing their Bibles.
All we ask of our students is that they let us, the staff and volunteers of BYC, care for them, walk alongside them, be their cheerleaders, and let them know that we think they are enough. When the rest of the world barrages them about their faults, trying to get them to buy this or that, we seek to be a place where teenagers are accepted and loved as they are.
From a faith in the love and all-encompassing acceptance of the divine, we walk alongside students, helping them discover the peacemaking way of Jesus. We are imperfect people, and we seek to engage and care for our young people well.
In closing, I leave you with the BYC mission statement: the Bend Youth Collective exists to create a space for all teenagers to become more whole, belong in community, and participate in the peacemaking way of Jesus.
written by Leigh DeVries, Associate Director of the Bend Youth Collective