Ever since my wife and I started coming to Epiphany I have enjoyed observing the families of the congregation. Even before we had children of our own, seeing our families manage the energy of their small children, or line up a crew of tweens and teens, fills me with warmth, admiration, and a little amusement.
I suspect this is a result of my childhood. Every Sunday morning, my parents would stuff the five of us into the family wagon, drive to church, and then stuff us into a pew. On more than a few Sundays, somebody at one end of the pew would start giggling about something, and the whole line of us kids would start shaking with suppressed laughter. It didn’t matter if we actually knew what started it all—just feeling of the pew shaking would be enough to set us off.
Families are a crucial component of a strong congregation. In recent years, we have seen a revitalization of this segment of Epiphany. Since joining our staff, Carolyn Hughes has been reinvigorating the church school and creating new programs for parents. Families are responding by showing up Sundays and the parent-toddler play group on Fridays, for example.
When our oldest was in middle school, he happily and actively attended Epiphany events because he connected with our youth minister at the time, Valerie Bailey Fischer. A woman of great warmth and compassion, she impressed our son so much, he served as an acolyte at her ordination.
More recently, our youngest has been an active member of the high school YPF program, because she connected with our previous youth minister, Jacob Athyal. I know that many of the church’s teens felt the same way about Jake, a charismatic young man, and YPF attendance grew under his ministry.
Currently, Epiphany does not have a youth minister. Jake left last year to continue his pursuit of a career in acting. This is the nature of youth ministry. The people who are successful at it are often young, and they soon feel called to move on with their lives, perhaps in other aspects of ministry, or in entirely other fields. We are hoping to hire another youth minister sometime next year. Filling this position with an energetic, successful candidate is important to keeping Carolyn’s good works going.
Of course, the position of youth minister requires funding, and next year’s budget forecast is challenging. We ask all members to prayerfully and intentionally consider their pledges, and help us continue the good works the church has started with the younger families. If we provide a home for our parish’s older youth, the halls of Epiphany will continue to reverberate with their energy, and their families will remain a strong segment of our congregation. Maybe the pews will even shake a little on Sunday mornings, too.