Youth Work Sunday
Posted on September 18, 2018 by Jenny Flannagan
Ananias, as a New Testament character often isn’t remembered as one of the greats, if at all. He wasn’t around at the time of Jesus, he isn’t known like Barnabus or Timothy, he didn’t write any letters like Paul, and he shares his name with the husband of a couple who drop dead in church (see Acts 5). He is mentioned in just 7 verses of the Bible, but I think we should be more like Ananias. Jenny Flannagan, Youthscape’s National Projects Leader, discusses Ananias, why we as youth workers should aim to be more like him and how Youth Work Sunday connects to them both…
The story of Paul’s dramatic encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, and his subsequent conversion from Christian-killer to Christian, is well-known. And it’s one that inspires me. The most unlikely, hardened persecutor of the church is pursued by Jesus himself, and what a story of redemption it turns out to be. What right have I to give up on anyone, or dare to see them as too far from the reach of God? But there’s another character in the story who traditionally gets a lot less attention, who has been inspiring me as I gear up for the new term.
Ananias is already part of the Christian community in Damascus, and he has probably heard that Saul is on his way to round up the believers and have them arrested. Acts 9:1–19 tells the story of how God asks him to take an enormous step of faith, and to go to find Saul, to look him out, and pray for him. God tells Ananias that Saul has already seen him in a vision, and that he is to go to pray that his sight is restored. On the one hand it’s a small ask - just to go and pray for someone. On the other hand it’s an astonishingly enormous task. Ananias has to believe that Saul won’t try to arrest him, that he will let Ananias pray for him, that God will restore his sight when he prays, and that when Saul can see again he won’t turn on him.
Ananias isn’t remembered like Saul/Paul is. And he can’t possible foresee at that moment the significance that Paul’s life and ministry will have. He is simply asked to serve. And to have the faith that God is doing an extraordinary thing in an unlikely candidate.
And I wonder if I have that kind of faith, and the willingness to serve without fully understanding the bigger picture of what God is doing in other’s lives. To be the first experience someone has of the church, of the family of God. To offer a welcome and a willingness to engage.
We’ve been mulling over that passage at Youthscape over the past months and it’s been our inspiration for this year’s Youth Work Sunday. (Youth Work Sunday? What’s that?) You might not have heard of it, as this is the first year Youthscape have taken it national, but we’re dreaming that it will become a regular part of the church’s calendar over the coming years. The vision behind it is that churches across the UK would dedicate a Sunday in September each year to praying for young people. And celebrating all that God is doing in their lives. And asking if there’s more that they could do to love and reach out to teenagers.
We want to get the church’s attention back on young people. Whether a church has no young people, or a thriving youth club, we want to get them excited about what’s going on, and what else might be possible. We want to get them praying for their local schools, their local schoolwork projects, their youth workers, their social workers, their teachers, other organisations that are working with young people - and for the teenagers themselves. We want to pray that we’d be signposts to Jesus for them, the people who, like Ananias, would be ready to go out of our way to extend a welcome to the family of God.
This year we’re celebrating on Sunday 23rd September and it’s not too late to get involved. Youthscape have produced all the resources you need for your church, whether you have ten minutes or a whole service at your disposal. We’d love it if Youth Work Sunday gave you the chance to tell your own stories of what you’re up to with young people locally and inspire the church to keep praying. Find out more at www.youthscape.co.uk/sunday. And if that’s too late notice, put Sunday 22nd September 2019 in your church’s diary now!