Within the presbyterian church I am interning with this summer, there is a significant problem of bureaucratic backlog, as I discussed in my last post on solving problems. This problem is the most obvious issue within church leadership, as it takes quite some time to have everything go through the proper channels before anything can be done. In this post, I will discuss this same ineffectiveness within the youth program that I am specifically working in. Engagement is lower than every for youth involved in church ministry, due in part because of the season, but also due to Zoom fatigue. We have submitted multiple proposals to meet in our church’s parking lot, using CDC guidelines of social distancing and mask wearing throughout the event. This has been rebuffed numerous times by the reopening task force because there were simply higher priorities for them. The youth ministry team understands the complexity facing this group of ten church members, and we do not want to create extra burden for them. However, we still feel that in person, relational ministry is necessary for these students, especially in this challenging and isolating time. There is only so much that Zoom can do.
As a leadership studies major interning with this program, my only recommendation would be to act, despite the risks of not going through the proper channels. Early this summer, a high school senior student who was fighting a malignant bone cancer passed away, to the devastation of the community. In the time of COVID-19 concerns, missed opportunities to celebrate seniors, and anxiety about the future, the passing of this student was a final straw for the Youth Pastor who guides these students through their struggles with faith — faith that was tested through all of these challenges. So, my boss, the Youth Pastor decided to hold a vigil in the parking lot for this student, so that other students could gather and grieve in community with one another. Because of the timing, this was not able to be vetted by the proper channels, but the Youth Pastor is heralded by staff and students for hosting this vigil. Students reflect on this event with gratitude, despite the difficult circumstances surrounding the event. This was not put through the bureaucratic process that our church normally approaches problems with, and it is the single most memorable and important event of this whole summer for these students.