Help us discover inspiring ministries

Jennifer A. Guerra Aldana | Oct 10, 2019

Photo by Klayfe Rohden

On a sunny Saturday morning in Los Angeles, a group of young people were invited by a local church to gather for fellowship and meaningful conversations about cultural identity and faith. I was honored to be among those invited that day to gather and spend time having intentional conversations around what it meant to be both Latinos and Christians.

As soon as we arrived, the aroma of baked goods and coffee drew me in. Young and old gathered around the living room of the home hosting this unique gathering, and for the next five hours we ate, prayed, cried, laughed, and ate some more. There was only one rule for our time together: we must respond with stories. Offering one-line or cliché responses would not do. Instead, we were encouraged to bring one another along on a journey into our lives.

This gathering was unlike any small group I had ever been to. Filled with a wealth of generations and cultural backgrounds, five hours was all it took for me to know I wanted more Saturdays like these—gathering around important conversations. I wanted more spaces in which my whole self would be ministered to—the kind that do not separate our spirituality from our cultural identity. That afternoon looked nothing like any other youth ministry I’d ever attended. It was not on a Wednesday night, it did not happen once a week, and it filled my entire day. And yet, it was just what I needed.

Helping young people live a better story

Across the United States, local ministries are responding to their young people’s spiritual needs with creativity and faithfulness. At the Fuller Youth Institute, we want to listen and learn from these ministries. Our latest project needs you!

As adults, many of us can remember our own high school experiences well. Sometimes with painful clarity we recall the moments in which we asked ourselves the questions Who am I?, Where do I belong?, and What is my purpose?

Like us, young people today can arrive at misleading answers—such as:

I am only loved if I get good grades in school.

I only belong when I am perfect.

My purpose is to make everyone around me happy.

Our team at the Fuller Youth Institute launched the Living A Better Story project (primarily funded by the Lilly Endowment, Inc.) to explore how churches help young people develop more Christ-centered narratives. We believe that the good news of Jesus has answers to the questions of identity, belonging, and purpose that every young person is asking—answers like:

I am a child of God.

I belong to a community of Christ followers.

I am sent by the Spirit to the world.

We want to see every young person identify answers that are harmful and untrue, and confront those answers with the truth found in the good news of Jesus. In that living room that Saturday morning, my false narratives were confronted with the truth of the gospel. I was reminded of who I am and with the help of others in the room, I walked away knowing that I was not alone. I knew I belonged. Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience. Maybe you know ministries which create this kind of safe space for young people’s big questions. Would you introduce them to us?

Nominate a ministry to tell us their story

We want to learn from diverse churches or faith-based organizations, primarily in the United States, that are faithfully and creatively discipling high school-aged teenagers. These organizations go beyond popular or well-established youth ministry approaches. They are imagining new or perhaps revised ways to minister to and with teenagers that reflect their unique contexts.

These creative ministry expressions may include one or more of the following characteristics:

  • They offer varied pathways for teenagers to be involved in the life of the overall church or organization.
  • They provide space for teenagers to ask questions, and they support teenagers’ faith journey with theological resources and relationships.
  • Adults in these organizations listen and empathetically respond to teenagers’ unique needs.
  • They equip diverse families and deepen teenagers’ relationships with their families.
  • They empower teenagers to use their gifts both within and beyond the church.

When you nominate a ministry for our Living a Better Story project, we will follow up to learn more about them and may invite the ministry to participate in further research. Our hope is that their creativity and faithfulness can inspire others to reimagine what youth ministry can look like.

Do you know a local church ministry or faith-based non-profit that is engaging a community of young people in unique ways? Have you heard about creative local initiatives? Can you think of a ministry that has inspired you to rethink the way you serve your young people?

Nominate them to tell us their story today.

Nominate a ministry

Can you help us spread the word?

Tweet: Do you know a ministry that is engaging young people in unique ways? Nominate them to participate in @FullerFYI’s latest project today!
Jennifer A. Guerra Aldana

Jennifer A. Guerra Aldana is the Manager of Multicultural Initiatives at the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI). Jennifer, originally from Guatemala, grew up in Southern California as the daughter of church planters. She holds a BA in Social Work from Point Loma Nazarene University and an MDiv from Fuller Theological Seminary. Jennifer previously served as a pastor and social worker in San Diego county. Her passions include leadership training, intercultural youth spiritual formation and bilingual ministries.

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