Written by Amanda Vetsch
I, Amanda, said yes to stewarding the young adult book project because I believe that this book, a book that centers and amplifies the voices of young adults who care deeply about the church, will be inspiring, disorienting, and transformational for the readers, congregations, neighborhoods, and communities who experience it. My hope is that this book will inspire us into hope, disorient us away from the status quo, help us remember who God is calling us to be, and continue transforming us so that we can show up more wholeheartedly in the places and spaces we are all called to be.
We launched the writing phase of the young adult book project in Mid-March by gathering all twenty-two writers at Montreat Conference Center for a Writers’ retreat. The purpose of the time together was to become familiar with each other and this project, preview how we plan to write a cohesive multi-voice book with twenty-two authors, and have each set of co-authors spend time together, in-person, to connect and plan.
On Friday evening, we gathered for dinner and our first session together. We introduced ourselves to each other, shared what values were carrying into the room and into the project, and looked back at the project’s story so far (Project Overview).
On Saturday, we had a mix of large group time and co-author time. In the large group, we looked at the logistics of how this project will come to fruition, and heard from each young adult author on why the theme they’ve been chosen to write on is important to the church.
In co-author pairs, each thought leader and young adult spent time connecting, brainstorming a chapter theme summary statement, and creating a game plan for how they’ll communicate, collaborate, and schedule their work. Each pair did this work uniquely, some started with a hike, some began with solitude, some took a stroll across the retreat center, some began by sharing about how their lived experiences will inform the theme they’ll write on, some began with writing, and all of them did really, really great work. Nicholas Tangen, the thought leader for the Community theme, said, “[He was] glad to meet so many new folks, to conspire and dream with my co-author Amar Peterman (who may be among the smartest people I’ve ever met), and to laugh way more than I had any business to. When people say the church is dying, I’m going to point back to rooms like the ones this weekend and let them know the church is more alive than ever!”
After dinner on Saturday, we had an optional social hour. We enjoyed refreshments, ate some snacks, and played some group games, like Fishbowl (aka Salad Bowl). Sarah Iverson, a young adult author said, “I had the opportunity to sneak away to a retreat center in the Appalachian mountains with 21 strangers who quickly became friends – all of us invited by Riverside Innovation Hub to contribute to a book about young adults and the church. Or more correctly, a book BY young adults FOR the church. I’ve been asked to co-author the chapter on mental health. I’m so excited to be part of this team as we spend the next year writing and dreaming together. This group of humans has already made me laugh harder and think more deeply than I have in a long time.”
On Sunday, we distilled some of the immense wisdom in the room. Everyone shared some of their best writing practices, insights on the creative process, advice and encouragement for each other, and some tools and techniques to try out as we endeavor in this collaborative book. Lunch on Sunday marked the end of our programmed time. About half the group traveled home on Sunday, and the other half on Monday. Talitha Amadea Aho, the thought leader for the Creation and Destruction theme reflected, “It was SO good for my soul to be away thinking big thoughts and having such fascinating conversations with the other 21 people who are together going to be writing a book that will help the church listen to its youngest leaders. Young adults haven’t left the faith, but the church has abandoned the public spaces where young people are actively living out their faith. This book will help the rest of the church follow their lead and find meaningful involvement in the issues that actually matter to our young leaders.”
The writers were sent off to work on a chapter outline, theme summary statements, and a first draft of their chapters. In a follow-up letter to the writing team, Kristina Frugé shared, “I think this book is one way folks will be invited into curiosity about the new thing God is doing in our time. Curiosity not just for the sake of curiosity, but because curiosity unlocks room for transformation, for liberation into a better way to be and be together. And don’t we all need that? I am eager to listen for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in this endeavor we are on together – in through and with the many voices gathered at our table.”
Stay tuned to this blog and the Riverside Innovation Hub social media to learn more about the writing team!