Monday, September 28, 2009

Salt and Light – Hang Time

Salt and Light – Hang Time

© 2008, American Anglican Council Weekly Update, October 24, 2008, By: Rev. J. Philip Ashey

When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, they were, like sheep with no shepherd. Matthew 9: 36

In the pressured, stressed academic and extra curricular life of the teens of Herndon, Virginia there is one scheduled weekly event which the teens themselves consider mandatory. It happens at the Church of the Epiphany, Wednesdays, 3-5PM where about 20-30 kids come together from public schools, Christian schools, and home schools for “Hang-Time”. What happens there? Nothing, and everything –pizza (of course) and while Christian music plays softly in the background a survey of the room reveals someone asleep on the couch, a chess game, homework, conversations, video game challenges, even a spontaneous jam session on the stage complete with keyboard and sound system. There is a group lounging while they watch a Christian video. Mixing and mingling with the group are young college age leaders who came out of the “Hang-Time” themselves.

Robbie Pruitt, the Youth Leader at Epiphany who began the program bases it also on God’s call for Sabbath rest – rest from the demanding, overscheduled, weary lives these teens live. Robbie points out “Scripture commands us in many different places to rest and Jesus Himself modeled this rest when He withdrew to solitary places to pray away from the crowds (Luke 5:16). The lack of structure makes this a place of respite.

In the last 15 minutes or so, when they come together for scripture and prayer it is in the safety of a circle of trusted friends. Sometimes Robbie shows a short contemporary Christian DVD—“Nooma” from Mars Hill Church, and Revolution are among his favorites. These are short lessons with high impact. Prayers are requested for school work, conflicts with parents, sick friends, and those struggling with broken homes. “Here,” Robbie says,” we are learning to make our lives a living testimony that simply says, “It is not about me, it is about Jesus.” We are taking the control away from ourselves and putting it in God’s hands and because of this we can rest in His strength, and learn from His direction.”

Robbie Pruitt sees this time each week as a way of building long term relationships with the kids. He sees himself as a “visible shepherd”: one whom the “harassed and helpless” can come to for conversation, counsel and prayer. But, he says, the key is consistency: just being there every week, present and available in the name and the power of Jesus Christ. Just as Jesus sent out his disciples in pairs, Robbie sees the focus on establishing a consistent, prayerful presence with the few, not the many, making each teen feel singularly important. He estimates that about forty different teens come when they can. When they can’t they can always visit “Hang Time” on Facebook. The program has also expanded other youth ministries - the kids consider themselves a family and so when a youth retreat happens they often come together.

When asked about Hang-Time it was described by one teen participant as”less in your face - food, games, and videos, extremely spontaneous, extremely fun, and extremely chilled”.

You can find more information about Hang Time and Epiphany’s Youth Ministries at

“Hang Time” is a wonderful example of how missional churches major on relationships. Why? Because that’s what Jesus did. Jesus spent his entire public ministry focused on a small group of twelve disciples—and much of it on the road “hanging out” with them. In our internet world, where relationships are decentralized and genuine community is diminished, Jesus is calling his church to be a place where we can offer real community, in Christ. Churches are mission outposts that offer genuine, caring, Christ-centered relationships.

As Robbie observed, some youth who cannot and will not attend church show up at Hang Time almost every week. They are on the way to becoming followers of Jesus Christ, because they have discovered genuine Christian community.

We call it the Church.

Have you and your church considered how you might become a missionary outpost that majors on relationships—just like Jesus? Who are the harassed and helpless in your community, your neighborhood, your workplace? May Christ give you his heart, the heart of the Good Shepherd, to hang out with a purpose!

Yours in Christ,

Rev. J. Philip Ashey
Chief Operating Officer
American Anglican Council

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