Imagine this. Five years ago, I was sitting in a study room at the McAllen, Texas, public library, wearing a suit and tie. I’d reserved a room to use their free Internet to have a Skype interview for a job with The Upper Room. As I talked about my desire to create a sense of belonging for youth and young adults and to help them to grow in their faith, I reflected on my own experience of feeling disconnected.
In my 20s, I worked for the Boy Scouts. It was my first job after college, and I was honored to work with this respected program that develops character, teaches citizenship, outdoors skills, and respect for creation. I moved four times in eight years to a new town where I knew only Boy Scout leaders. With each move, it was difficult to find a place to belong. I struggled until I learned that I could ultimately start my own young adult group in church.
One thing became crystal clear during the job interview: If there was anything I could do to make it easier for young people to connect with God and others and to help The Upper Room make it possible, I had to go.
God is good. I got the job and have worked diligently to create a new ministry called Journey to the Table that provides a space of belonging for college students and young adults. It’s now being used by churches and campus ministries seeking to offer community and faith-based conversation.
We also launched Discovery Weekend in 2017. Over 200 churches are now using this retreat model, which gives middle school youth and their congregation a formative time to experience God’s love and to connect across generations. Chrysalis, our long-standing ministry patterned after The Walk to Emmaus, has helped more than 150,000 high school students become spiritual leaders.
We need your help to sustain and grow our ministry with youth and young people. Your financial support will help us offer prayer practices and spiritual experiences for young people to create daily life with God. It is my prayer that every young person seeking God and a safe place to belong will find a faith community that loves and supports them.
We all have a desire to connect and belong. Working together through prayer and finances, we can share God’s love with middle-schoolers through Discovery Weekend. We can mentor student leaders through Chrysalis, and we can provide affirmation and guidance to young adults through Journey to the Table.
Geoffrey Parker is the Director of Youth & Young Adult Spiritual Formation Programs at The Upper Room.
Joining friends at The Upper Room in morning prayer on Facebook Live has been an anchor in the storm during recent weeks. In the chaos of trying to figure out how to do ministry in strange and uncertain times, it was a compelling call to stop, breathe, listen, and be in community with those who gather "where the world meets to pray." Join us each day for morning prayer.