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Young adult Angela Cross prays during a special service at Christ United Methodist Church in Franklin, Tennessee.

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Beyond ‘Go On:’ Using the means of grace with your youth

 

By Chris Wilterdink
May-June 2015

The means of grace are actions that all of us can inspire young people to use as transformative spiritual disciplines!

YOUTH 2015 will focus on the means of grace – giving young people and those who work with youth experiences with spiritual practices emphasized by John Wesley. Some will be familiar to those attending; others will be new. After the event, staff from Young People’s Ministries will track Youth 2015 participants’ continued engagement with the practices.

The ideas and resources listed here will let youth ministers and other leaders introduce the practices – and help youth engage in new ones – whether or not they are in Florida in June. YOUTH 2015 will track involvement with 20 specific means of grace during and after the event. Local church leaders could track participation in the same 20 means of grace to measure how the youth in their congregation put their faith into practice.

The Jerusalem cross is a helpful visual aid to understanding the Wesleyan Means of Grace. The acts of piety and mercy can be divided into personal actions that an individual can do and public acts that groups must do.

The means of grace that we call “acts of piety” or “acts of mercy”’ are non-sequential. Youth can start their journey toward a deeper faith by doing any of these actions, in any order. Youth leaders can track the spiritual growth of their youth knowing engaging in any of these actions, in no particular order, will perfect our faith. What freedom God’s grace provides!

ACTS OF PIETY

Personal and public acts of piety are means of grace that people do to strengthen their personal holiness. The Holy Spirit is present and works in us whenever we engage Scripture, gather in the name of Christ for worship, pray or do Bible study. The same Holy Spirit is present when we fast, share the sacraments and live in healthy ways. Creative public acts of piety in the Wesleyan tradition include love feasts and covenant renewal and watch night services.

Piety is about personal holiness; doing one or more things regularly and finding out how God’s grace transforms an individual because of that commitment. We can start with any of the acts of piety as a means of experiencing God’s grace – and even do more than one at the same time! They are practices we do if we expect our faith to mature, but we are not bound by rules to do them perfectly. Youth – and their adult leaders – commit to do something, and then stick with that commitment!

Twelve acts of piety will be practiced and tracked at YOUTH 2015.

Personal Acts of Piety

  • Read the Scriptures

  • Meditate on Scripture
  • Study the Scriptures
  • Pray

  • Fast
  • Worship
  • Live a healthy life
  • Share faith with others

Public Acts of Piety

  • Share Communion

  • Share in baptisms
  • Engage in Christian conferencing (accountability or small groups)
  • Study the Bible with others

ACTS OF MERCY

Personal and public acts of mercy positively affect communities, helping God’s grace transform the world into God’s kingdom. Acts of mercy share God’s grace with others rather than focusing on God’s grace working within us—social holiness instead of personal holiness. Fittingly, we experience God’s grace inwardly through acts of piety even as we share God’s grace with the world around us through acts of mercy.

These means of grace help us live into the second half of what Jesus called the “greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:39), to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Acts of mercy are all about loving our neighbor.  YOUTH 2015 will track eight acts of mercy.

Personal Acts of Mercy

  • Doing good works

  • Visiting the sick
  • Visiting those in prison
  • Feeding the hungry

  • Giving generously to the needs of others

Public Acts of Mercy

  • Seeking justice
  • Ending oppression and discrimination

  • Addressing the needs of the poor

Introducing the means of grace to your youth

Download the free YOUTH 2015 pre-event resource titled “Get Going”’ at http://bit.ly/1EMVR6a. It is usable whether or not you attend the event.

Use the activity tables from Session 1 to determine how many opportunities you create in your ministry for youth to learn and participate in the means of grace.

Use the activity tables in Session 1 to have your youth estimate how often they currently do any of the means of grace.

Invite your youth to define how the means of grace can affect their local context. (For example, when discussing “addressing the needs of the poor,” have them consider, “Who are the poor in our community? How are they poor? Poor in family? Poor in spirit? Poor in finances? How can we learn what we can provide to help relieve their poverty?”)

Start doing some of the means of grace yourself during the week. Track what is most transformative for you in a journal.

Create a photo challenge using Instagram, Snapchat or other social media. Encourage students to share pictures of themselves doing the means of grace and hashtag their photos with your church’s name and #youth2015.

Tracking young people’s practice

Tracking your students’ practice of the 20 means of grace over a set period can become a tool to measure the relative change of youth putting their faith into action. Tracking relative change is important because not all students start in the same place. Youth who have been doing nothing  to grow their faith and who decide to read Scripture once a week for six months are showing as big a jump in activity as those who already practice 10 means of grace deciding to try one more.

Have youth individually list how often they do each of the 20 acts of mercy being tracked at YOUTH 2015 (Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Less than Monthly).

Ask these questions about the activities: How have you loved the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind in the last month? How have you loved your neighbor as yourself in the last month?

Ask youth to commit to do at least one of the means of grace more regularly than they currently are doing for one month. Encourage them to try one they have not done before, but something that they will stick with.

Collect the youths’ answers and commitments.

Encourage the youth to share their commitments with each other, and, if willing, to find a partner who will check in with them weekly to see if they are sticking with their commitment.

Follow up with the youth after one month and have them create the same list of activities.

Compare the answers from the beginning of the month and the end to find out the relative change for each youth in your ministry.

Share and celebrate this growth with your community! Challenge the adults of your church to do the same activity!

Chris Wilterdink, director of Young People’s Ministries program development, Discipleship Ministries, Nashville, Tennessee

 

Further resources

Three Simple Rules That Will Change the World, Reuben Job, Abingdon Press

Accountable Discipleship: Living in God’s Household, Steven W. Manskar, Discipleship Resources

Watch for a new covenant discipleship resource from Discipleship Ministries in the winter of 2015!