THE CURRICULUM --
St. Martin’s uses a wonderful program for middle– and high-school youth called The Journey to Adulthood. The program is a complete youth ministry program of spiritual formation for 6th—12th grades. Its underlying theme is that adulthood is earned, that manhood and womanhood are gifts from God, and we choose how we use our creative power, not only to create life but also to shape the world according to God’s purpose. The young people meet on Sunday mornings from 10 to 11am. The Journey to Adulthood program uses scripture and real life issues to explore faith. The program celebrates young people turning 13, supports families of teens, as well as working on life skills of planning a field trip and preparing for a spiritual pilgrimage. Near the end of high school, the young people explore vocation and ministry in the church and are empowered to reach out and serve.
Grades 6-7 (Year 1) and Grades 7-8 (Year 2): The middle school youth meet in Room 9 of the Zig-Zag building at 10am for Sunday School. During these first two years of the program, they spend time together bonding as a class and forming trust with each other (ropes course) while learning how to use a Bible in fun and engaging ways. You can always tell which room is inhabited by Rite-13 students because they leave their shoes outside the door to their room. They adopt this practice after reading about Moses and the burning bush when God asks Moses to take off his shoes because it is holy ground on which Moses stands.
When Rite-13 students reach the age of 13, they and their parents participate in a special liturgy that takes place at our 9:15am family service. This liturgy acknowledges that this “coming of age” event is an extraordinary moment for young people and is the beginning of their quest for independence. The liturgy is emotional for the youth and their parents, and it is moving for the congregation who agrees to support these families as they navigate the teenage years.
J2A (Journey to Adulthood)
Grades 8-9 (year 1) and Grades 9-10 (Year 2): This segment of the program helps teens create an understanding of the importance of Christian community as they develop critical thinking and other skills they will need in adulthood. The curriculum for this stage emphasizes learning skills that mark them as “adults in training” such as negotiation, active listening and other leadership abilities. These young people meet in Room 7 of the Zig-Zag building at 10am for Sunday School. The end of J2A is marked with a spiritual pilgrimage that is often a life-changing experience for the group.
Pilgrimage is described by some as “praying with your eyes open.” In the past, St. Martin’s youth have made pilgrimages to Ireland (exploring our Celtic heritage), Spain (walking the Camino de Santiago), Costa Rica (experiencing the beauty of God’s creation), and the Desert Southwest (immersing in Native American spirituality). The youth research various sites and make recommendations based on theological purposes and spiritual experiences to be gained by going. Our current group of students will be readying themselves to embark on a pilgrimage to Borderlands Ranch in the Black Hills of South Dakota in the summer of 2013.
YAC (Young Adults in Church)
Grades 10-12 (Year 1) and Grades 11-12 (Year 2): YAC is a mentor-based program that helps older teens discern and carry out a ministry within their church or in the larger community. Vocation and development of a personal credo are also emphasized. A final rite of passage sends them out into the world as ambassadors of Christ.
These senior high students meet in Room 6 of the Zig-Zag building at 10am for Sunday School. The first year of this program focuses on confirmation preparation for the returning pilgrims. At the same time the young people take steps to become very involved in the life of the parish. Five of them were recently licenses as Lay Eucharistic Ministers and all of them make the communion bread for the whole parish. The youth also act as aides for the elementary teachers, function as lectors during services, and serve as acolytes and altar servers. The group is also committed to planning a mission trip for themselves and eventually for the whole parish.
JOURNEY GUIDES (ADULT LEADERS)
The adults for these three classes of pre-teens and teenagers commit to piloting these young people through the choppy waters toward adulthood. The J2A program is based on the principles of relational youth ministry. It assumes that at least two to four adults (of both genders) will be leaders for each of the three groups and that these leaders will only serve for two years (minimum) for four years (maximum) before taking a “break.” This engages many more adults in building relationships with youth and providing positive role models for them. The traditional youth ministry model of a single youth “guru” (paid volunteer) depends on the personality of that individual—and when he/she leaves, the youth program often collapses. J2A is designed to engage lots of adults in nurturing the youth of our congregation and community. It is designed to bring young people into full participation in the life of the congregation so they actually ARE the church of today instead of the church of the future.
Each class at St. Martin’s has four adults (2 male and 2 female) who are up-to-date in their Safe Church training requirements. The Guides are chosen for their willingness and ability to relate to this age group. In fact, they enjoy and understand these young people and are invested in the success of each youth. The teams are made up of adults with different but complimentary gifts that they freely offer. St. Martin’s has found that even our often-very-busy high school seniors continue to attend and help when they are able and are fully committed to the ministries they have chosen within the church. We have found that confirmation at St. Martin’s is not an “exit” from Sunday School but rather the beginning of adult membership.