Contemplative Youth Ministry

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“This yearning to be fully awake and alive…is the heart of the contemplative tradition.” – Mark Yaconelli
Contemplate means to think about something and to take your time considering. You can see remnants of the word “temple” in the word “contemplate,” which can help us understand what it means. A temple is a designated space where we go to observe, where we go to pay attention, and focus on God, to listen and hear from Him – to worship! So when we contemplate, it’s like we are actively living into the idea that our bodies are a temple, and we can meet God here, right now, in our own hearts and minds.
We know in an abstract sense that God is always with us, but then what does it mean to “be with God?” Being with God and contemplating has more to do with that direction of our focus and attention. It is about noticing and remembering that God is present.
Some more ways of explaining contemplation:
The sacrament of the present moment. – Jean Pierre de Causade
Awareness absorbed and amazed. – Teresa of Avila
A long loving look at the real. – Water Burghardt
Which definition speaks to you most?
Now before you think this is all very ancient sounding and irrelevant… contemplation wasn’t invented by holier-than-thou monks who wanted to excuse themselves from living in the world and hole up in caves in the mountains. Contemplation is how Jesus walked on this earth – physically present, emotionally present to everyone around him – unafraid to look lovingly upon people and act in response.
As Christians we know we should act, we know we should serve and do good things and “follow in the footsteps of Jesus.” YET, Jesus doesn’t want us disconnected from him, walking in some proverbial old path of footsteps forged two millennia ago as though he isn’t alive today, right beside us, right now, seeking to know us and be known by us.
Contemplative Youth Ministry is an invitation to slow down and receive the young people in our lives as they are. It is about prayer and listening, and taking time to be present with God and each other, so that we are not doing more for God than we are spending time with God.
What would it be like if our ministries were filled with adults who took a “long loving look at the real”? How would our youth respond if adult Christians engaged them with patience and transparency and presence? And what would it mean for our own lives if we sought to be present and follow God’s lead instead of hurriedly striving toward the next task or project?
If you have found yourself reading this far, please consider taking a moment now to pray and ask God – what does he want from you in this? Is he speaking to you? Take note of what Jesus might saying to you today.
Love art? Curious about what the temple means through the Bible? Check out this beautiful <5 min video by the Bible Project: