by Beth Anderson, Synod Ministry Coordinator – 1/12/2015
“God invites all of us to become Godbearers—persons who by the power of the Holy Spirit smuggle Jesus into the world through our own lives, who by virtue of our yes to God find ourselves forever and irrevocably changed.”
-Kenda Creasy Dean
In one of my favorite books on youth ministry, “The God-bearing Life”, author Kenda Creasy Dean casts a vision for youth ministry borrowing from the Eastern Orthodox name for Mary – Theotokos – which translated from Greek means “the God-Bearer.” Mary literally carried God within her body and birthed God into the world in the person of Jesus. As she plays on this understanding of Mary as the God-Bearer, Dean invites us to think of ourselves as ones who bear Christ into the world.
Dean writes: “God invites all of us to become Godbearers—persons who by the power of the Holy Spirit smuggle Jesus into the world through our own lives, who by virtue of our yes to God find ourselves forever and irrevocably changed. . . In biblical witness, God seems especially fond of calling upon unlikely suspects for such missions. Young people—impetuous, inexperienced, improbable choices by all accounts—figure prominently among God’s ‘chosen.’ And while God doesn’t call any of us to bring Christ into the world as literally as did Mary, God calls each of us to become a Godbearer through whom God may enter the world again and again.”
It is through interactions with other people of faith that our own faith is sustained, stretched and deepened. My guess is that somebody introduced you to scripture. Somebody, through their words or actions, confirmed for you that you too are included in God’s love story for the world. Somebody taught you what it means to care for neighbor, to be kind, to be fair, to reach out to others even when it’s a bit out of your way. I can name people who taught me and continue to teach me what it means to be loved by God and to be part of God`s ongoing mission of getting this world loved. Many of you who are reading this, are some of those very people who continue to teach me each day what it means to be and to live as a person of faith.
Even in western North Dakota, we can no longer take for granted that most people in our communities are involved in a congregation or grew up in church. Godbearers are needed to help share the love of Christ in tangible ways. The not-so-new approach to youth ministry these days is grounded in an understanding that relationship is the key to ministry with youth and young adults. Programs and entertainment alone won’t keep our young people connected to the church, but investing in real, authentic relationships with them will help them know God’s love for them. You don’t have to be theologically trained or serve on a church staff to be a Godbearer in a young person’s life. Simply, taking time to spend with a young person, to engage them in conversation about what matters to them and what is happening in their lives, inviting them to share their insights, experiences, critiques, and affirmations, sharing your own questions, insights, and struggles in life and faith will deepen your relationship and provide opportunities for you to be a Godbearer in their lives . . .and for them to be a Godbearer in yours too. And this isn’t just a youth ministry thing. We all need Godbearers. People who remind us that we matter, to one another, and to God.
I invite you to consider yourself a Godbearer this day. How will you bear Christ into your home, your workplace, your classroom, your community this day?
 The God-Bearing Life: The Art of Soul Tending in Youth Ministry, Kenda Creasy Dean, Upper Room Publishing, ©2005.