Friday, August 31, 2007

The children are not our future.


I haven't read this book, but I read an online interview with the author on Globe and Mail, and it reminded me of some points I've heard made by other people.

My blog title was provided by a pastor friend who tries to help people understand that our children are here now, have a role in the church and should not be put away for later use.

He provides an example of a church that wanted to start a "youth group" and asked a professional to come and evaluate the needs of the local youth and determine what a youth group might look like for this congregation.

The professional found that in this small church, the three current youth had roles in the choir, church council and missions work. The professional urged the congregation to not worry about a youth group, but to keep doing more of what they were already providing.

I heard a "car talk" type show the other day in which the host mentioned that he had rebuilt an engine, with some help, at the age of 15. We often don't expect much of our youth, and it's time we realize that we should not wait for them to grow up before we ask them to participate.

In the Globe and Mail article I referred to, one person does raise a good point:
Why does everybody need to squeeze every last ounce of productivity out of their lives? We are moving so close to a society where you are judged purely by how much money you make and how many hours you can put in at work during a week that it seems no one is smelling the clich├ęd roses along the road to death.

Who cares if a teenager can work in an office just as well as an adult? They have plenty of time to do that when they are an adult; no need to go back to the ways of the industrial revolution.

Epstein answers :

Many young people would like the opportunity to start a business, own property, compete against adults, make their own medical decisions, live on their own, drink alcohol (responsibly) - or even to retire to a desert island!

But over the last century, society has come to restrict all young people - based simply on age, and no matter how motivated or competent they may be - so that they have virtually no meaningful options whatsoever. . .

The key is to allow young people to enter the adult world as soon as they are ready.

I'm not sure that most adults or youth know when they're ready to enter adulthood. As a 40 year old male, I am still stunned when I realize that my peers are doctors, teachers and pastors, but I think the church can learn from what Epstein and others are saying about youth in the culture at large.

Our youth can take part in the liturgy; not just as acolytes or ushers or whatever small task we think they won't mess up, but as readers, worship leaders, choir members and, should they be called, preachers. Having a once a year "youth Sunday" may be a fun way for the congregation to see the youth dress up one Sunday out of the year, but we should help our youth find their way to Christ every Sunday.

That doesn't mean that I'm calling for a strong "works" checklist that will help youth earn their way into heaven, but I do think the apprenticeship of our youth should be a focus of the church. In a fine blog post about fishing, Kevin Baker mentions how he "grew up learning to throw a net at the feet of my Uncle Roy." How many of our youth get to see that kind of work in action? Let's start with worship and see where the Spirit can take us together.


5 comments:

  1. involve the youth EVERY WEEK,EVERY MEETING mentor them, accept them as part of the priesthood of all believers and yes empower them to reveal Christ where they are.

    Jesus loved kids (and I suspect youth) because there's a lot less phoniness and they ask brilliant questions too :)

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  2. I was so glad when I found out that there was a high-schooler on the PPRC committee at the church I served a few years ago. In fact, when the time came to nominate for the following year, I sort of skipped the part in the Discipline where it states that youth aren't supposed to serve on the committee. I thought he brought a wonderful perspective and the adults appreciated his opinions as well.

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  3. Recently our church has been trying to shape worship intentionally, to be aware of how and why we do certain things, and determine what we are not doing as well. Youth were a vital part of that work. I continue to be amazed and blessed by what youth can contribute.

    I can see why youth involvement in the sprc is discouraged, but instead of saying "youth are not welcome here" we might try saying "How can we make youth welcome here?" I could spend days talking about how poorly the sprc committee functions at some churches though, so perhaps that's another topic.

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  4. I have a bad habit of commenting too quickly. As I reread your post I realized that your suggestion was to start with worship. So my comment wasn't exactly on topic. Sorry about that.

    The church where I did my Field Ed held Sunday School during worship. I don't have a terrible problem with that for younger children, but they actually had Sunday School for the high schoolers during worship. One of my goals while I was there for the year was to coax the Ad Board, parents, etc. to understand what that implied about the priesthood of all believers, what we expect of our young people, and what we believe about the body of Christ. Unfortunately they were never willing to change things, and I wonder if those kids will even darken the door of the church when they're no longer forced to by their parents.

    So if the children are not our future, we need to be intentional about making sure the children are our now. I'm glad your church is being intentional about making young people an integral part of worship.

    Great post.

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