I’ve been at this “youth mission” gig for a while now. Almost 20 years as a youth minister, and about eight of those through Asheville Youth Mission.
It’s been wonderful to watch what God has done through all of this— more and more youth groups coming to work with us at AYM from a wide variety of places and denominations. It’s been amazing to see all the partnerships grow, including our work with more and more ministries and help agencies around Asheville, and partnerships with multiple camps and conference centers in the mountains of NC. Most importantly, it has been a blessing to see the impact that so many youth have made on the community of Asheville, and how our friends and neighbors who are living on the streets, in poverty, or otherwise on the margins, have also made such a huge impact on our youth.
About three years back we at AYM made a realization— that this kind of ministry can’t and shouldn’t be contained in Asheville. This led us to the expansion of our work to a new location, Raleigh, NC. Katherine has done a great job building and managing our ministry in Raleigh, while Debbie has also been outstanding in keeping up and adding to our work here in Asheville. But just like any ministry or any organization, it must keep growing. We must keep searching. We must keep discerning what else God is calling us to do and be.
So, the staff and I have been in a lot of thought and prayer about where all this is going. We have talked to lots of folks and gotten a lot of wisdom and insight from our friends, our colleagues, our Board of Directors and our Support Team. What we have come to understand is that all of the ministry happening through our AYM and RYM Mission Immersion programs, all the weeks of summer mission trips, all the mission weekends, all the day projects done with our camp and conference partnerships… it’s all just the tip of the iceberg. Sure, we are making a really significant impact in Asheville and Raleigh (like, over a million dollars of money we’ve saved our partner agencies through the work of our youth volunteers!). But… just think of what all these youth groups are doing AFTER their time at AYM and RYM. All those youth groups, in all those communities, continuing their work of Christian service in the places where they live every day!
That is what Youth Mission Co is all about. We have developed YMCo as an umbrella organization that can cover all that we are doing now, and all that we hope to do in the future. The “co” is about connection. It’s about collaboration. It’s a collection of the stories about the ministry that youth are engaged in all over the country.
Asheville Youth Mission and Raleigh Youth Mission will continue their programming, and we hope to add more locations in the years to come. But above all that, YMCo is about sharing the great social justice ministries that youth are doing EVERY DAY in the places they call home. This blog, along with our other YMCo social media, will be an open resource for youth and youth ministry leaders to see what young people are doing around the country, to be inspired by it, and be empowered to participate themselves in the coming of God’s kingdom.
So, keep your eye on this blog, and on all our social media, in the weeks and months to come. We look forward to hearing from youth around the country about how God is using them to cross boundaries, build relationships with our neighbors in need, and transform their communities.
Bill Buchanan is the Executive Director of Youth Mission Co, Asheville Youth Mission, and Raleigh Youth Mission. He lives in Asheville, NC.