NEPTUNE – On April 28 GNJ confirmation classes were invited for a gathering at the Mission and Resource Center to meet Bishop Schol, enjoy , fellowship, worship, and learn together about what it means to be the next generation of Greater New Jersey United Methodists.
“I had five of my eight confirmands there along with five of their leaders,” said Wes Ellis, Associate Pastor of First UMC of Toms River. “It was a meaningful time for our youth, not only because they got to see the Mission and Resource Center and meet Bishop Schol, but also because they got the opportunity to connect with other young people from other congregations who are going through a similar journey. To think about Confirmation in that context, reflecting on the big picture of what’s at stake in confirming what God has said about them in their baptism, is a profound opportunity and we were grateful for the invitation.”
Sonia Butler, one of the leaders from First UMC, admired what she considered Bishop Schol’s bravery in opening the floor for questions.
“The maturity and sophistication of the questions and the wisdom in the answers was inspiring,” she said.
For Desirae Ferrara, a First UMC confirmand, the best part of the day was meeting and seeing all of the other young people her age on the same journey of faith in GNJ.
“It was great to be with kids who were also excited to be confirmed in their church and really start their religious journey,” she said. “It was inspiring and comforting. In 2018, less people go to church, so being in a room with kids like me who love their faith made me feel good and like I was truly on the right path.”
Ferrara was encouraged by Bishop Schol answering difficult questions.
“We bring our children into the body of Christ through days like these,” said Ryan Clements, Next Generation Ministries Coordinator. “This day allowed young Christian teens from all different parts of New Jersey to realize that when they commit themselves to the body of Christ through Confirmation, they aren’t just committing to the local church they’re a part of, they are committing themselves to a much larger body.”
For many confirmands, it’s hard to get a sense of that body unless they have the chance to meet and interact with kids from other churches and church leaders. The day provided space for that interaction and gave GNJ youth a sense of what it means. .
During a Next Generations Ministries workshop for youth ministry leaders, leaders from different churches took time to share of the joys and challenges experienced in Confirmation this year.
“As leaders shared, common themes began to emerge and they began to smile as they realized that they all had similar experiences despite their diverse contexts,” said Clements. “I couldn’t help smiling as well because if we have similar joys and challenges, then it means we can work together, learn from each other, and be in ministry together.”
A small group of churches in the Skylands District has already started collaborating for their Confirmation program and has expressed blessings that have come because of it.
Next Generation Ministries is working to facilitate sharing and collaborating through camps and retreats, student programs, workshops for youth ministry leaders and a network of college campus ministers.
“Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs, showing that we minister better when we minister together,” said Clements. “I was glad and excited to see this collaborative spirit emerge as we shared in our workshop.”
For more information about GNJ’s Next Generation Ministry, visit www.gnjnextgen.org