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Flourishing Christian Communities

I’m writing this on a ministry trip to France and the U.K.  While here, I am researching a book I’m writing about curating environments where Christian communities can flourish in their lives with God.  Today I visited the famous home and gardens of Claude Monet in Giverny, France.

Claude Monet was a founder of French impressionist painting and was misunderstood by the established art community because he was pioneering a new way to paint.  He was constantly on the move, barely making a living.  In May of 1883, Monet rented a large house and two acres near Giverny.  In 1890 he was finally able to buy the house and land and was well on his way to curating the gardens and pond filled with water lilies, which became the primary subject of his most beautiful paintings done over the last 35 years of his life.

Instead of continually moving around, Monet settled in and rooted himself in Giverny, serving as curator of the gardens and pond. Even though his staff grew to include seven full-time gardeners, he gave very specific instructions to them every day.  The fruit of the gardens in Giverny resulted in the some of the most beloved art in the world and has made Monet the most known artist in the world.  If Monet had continued the early pattern of constantly moving around, if he had not rooted himself in Giverny and carefully nurtured the environment that became the subject of his life’s seminal work – we would have never had these paintings.

I just completed my 37th year at Youthfront.  I remember our founder telling me over and over again: Don’t quit.  Stay where you are and sink your roots in. Al Metsker served as President of Youthfront for 45 years, and Youthfront is now celebrating our 70th year of fruitful ministry with young people. Youthfront is strong and stable because so many people have rooted themselves into nurturing an environment of stability.  We have a staff filled with people who have committed themselves to the task of curating.  A curator is one who engages in the care and superintendence of an environment; the concept of “curator” is being used broadly to describe one who is actively involved in producing meaning.

Youthfront curates environments where young people can flourish, which means to “grow well and luxuriantly, to thrive.”  The word “flourish” derives from the Latin flōrēre, to bloom, and is a derivative of flōs, or flower.  I’ll never forget my mentor Al Metsker constantly challenging me to “bloom where you’re planted.”

We live in a culture that overvalues mobility. We consider it a highly valued privilege to be able to move wherever we want, whenever we want. We have grown complacent, accustomed to church environments where we feel no remorse over changing congregations when things aren’t going the way we want. In the youth ministry world, many are way too comfortable with the idea of a youth worker serving in five, six, seven or more places in a cycle of constant change.

A youth worker as curator is one who nurtures an environment where young people can discover what it means to be disciples of Jesus Christ and become more fully alive.  This happens at Youthfront because we work hard to be a practicing Christian community ourselves.  We create space for young peoples imagination to flourish, where doubts aren’t ignored, where hospitality is the norm; where young people are captivated by the opportunity to participate in God’s mission of restoration, and where the community has a posture of openness to the presence of God, the ministry of Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit.

I believe young people are engaging in a passionate pursuit of God, focused on living life to the full and not settling for an impoverished life because that is descriptive of the Youthfront staff.  This is the environment and posture that we invite young people into.

Yes, lots of things are changing during our 70th year of ministry – a new web site (check it out), new offices (more announcements soon), new staff members, a building campaign at Youthfront Camp West, plus more.

What doesn’t change is our unashamed focus on Jesus Christ, the salvation he brings to those who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus, and the desire to live obedient lives according to the scripture.  What doesn’t change is that Youthfront is a community of youth workers who engage in Christian practices together and work together to fulfill our mission to bring youth into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.  As much as I love Monet’s beautiful and seminal works of his gardens and water lily ponds in Giverny, even more beautiful are the stories (some which you’ve read here) of lives transformed by God’s spirit through the ministry of Youthfront.

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