The 22 parishes of the Diocese of Moosonee are spread out across 560,000 square kilometers in northern Ontario and Quebec. This expanse—second only to the Diocese of the Arctic in area—presents unique challenges for growing and strengthening youth ministry.
With support from Anglicans across Canada through Gifts for Mission, combined with the hard work and creativity of an experienced youth ministry practitioner, youth ministry in Moosonee is getting a colourful and contemporary makeover.
Since January 2014, the Rev. Lisa BrantFrancis has been revitalizing ministry for children and youth through tools designed to respond to the challenges of distance, sparse population, and the particular multilingual and multicultural diversity found in the diocese.
In her role as a resource person for the whole diocese, BrantFrancis seeks to understand and meet the distinctive needs of each of the churches she serves. Some communities have very small Sunday schools or youth groups. Other communities have a lot of children, but few volunteers so “outreach is to try to inspire people to volunteer and to support those who are perhaps overburdened by many, many responsibilities,” BrantFrancis notes.
BrantFrancis carries out most of her work remotely through digital means. One way she’s overcoming barriers of distance is through the creation and facilitation of an online sharing circle for congregations who host a Messy Church programme, which is an alternative form of worship that focusses on intergenerational and hands-on participation. She notes that there has been some energy around the online group, but that it will hopefully grow into a community where members increasingly support each other.
The social media savvy BrantFrancis also leverages popular sharing tool Pinterest in support of her youth ministry initiatives. She takes advantage of Pinterest’s attractive and user-friendly interface to organize ideas for crafts and activities, children’s ministry books, and so on. In sorting her research and resources in this way she is making it very easy for youth ministry practitioners to access and find the resources they need with just a few clicks.
A major element of renewing these ministries in the Diocese of Moosonee is the creation and distribution of a diocesan wide newsletter. The newsletter’s bright and cheerful pages are filled with customized information and resources to enliven children’s and youth ministry in this northern context.
Past newsletters have included resources on suicide prevention for Indigenous communities, countdown checklists for vacation bible school, notices for upcoming gatherings for youth and young adults, crafts and activities to accompany Messy Church worship, prayers that are easy for children to remember, and suggestions for print resources and curricula to enliven youth ministry.
BrantFrancis also includes some conventional ministry tools in her repertoire. She relies on the simple phone call and pastoral visit as much as anyone else, and also likes to attend parish events and maintain a basic website for her ministry.
With more than twenty years experience, BrantFrancis was a natural fit for this new ministry. “Children’s ministry is something I’ve always been busy doing,” she says, “I have always enjoyed ministry to children, and I just keep exploring and finding new things to try and reach out to the little ones.”
Looking forward, BrantFrancis hopes to set up a fresh website for her ministry that could be better integrated with the diocesan website. She would also like to do more work in encouraging people to use the resources made available in the newsletter. Keeping with a strong relational approach to her ministry, BrantFrancis is also eager to hear more from the people she serves, “What more do you need? How are you using the resources?”
While the focus of her ministry is foremost on children and youth, BrantFrancis also takes a broader view. “It is important to provide intergenerational activities that we can do together as a community.”
Ultimately her work is about building relationship and connecting Anglican children and youth ministry practitioners throughout the Diocese of Moosonee. “There is so much out there, if we can just connect one another to it we can inspire one another quicker and the ideas the will just flow along.”
The Diocese of Moosonee is one of nine dioceses that make up the Council of the North. They work together to share information about and respond to the unique challenges faced by smaller ministries in the north, and to provide pastoral and sacramental ministry throughout this region.
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