Last night, I did something that really shows I’m in my twenties. Or nuts. Or both.
I pulled an all-nighter to watch the Federer/Nadal match.
And here’s the part that’s really nuts: I spent the entire match—that’s 3+ hours—feeling deeply and incredibly nervous.
Now there’s a word we’re all familiar with. Job interviews, new schools, new homes, changing roles, bigger responsibilities, even emotional attachments to sports players—they all get us to that feeling of turmoil in our gut that we call ‘nervous.’
It’s a feeling I doubt many of us are fond of, but it also seems to be one that we just can’t escape. And sometimes, when I catch myself feeling especially nervous before a big day, the youth minister in me begins to wonder… were the big names in the bible ever nervous?
Who, Me? Nervous?
This past spring, I was invited to sign on as a contributor to Sparkhouse’s re:form Ancestors curriculum, and it’s a series I quickly picked up and used with the kids I teach in ministry. I love this study because it exposes the greatest ancestors of the Christian faith for what they really were: people. Real, unpolished, imperfect—but faithful!—people. And it taught the kids that these people had normal emotions. Take, for example, Moses. Now here’s a guy who got nervous.
Here’s something we folks in [student] ministry tend to forget: the youth in our churches are ready to wrestle with theological questions. There have been and will be tons of posts in this blog about what we can learn from the kids of our churches and just how theologically thoughtful they already are. Today’s post, really, is more about a different issue. Today I’m issuing a call for adults to trust young people to be as smart as they really are.
“The Youth Are Our Future”
I hear often in the church that young people are our future, and it’s a phrase that I really can’t stand. Because here’s what I believe: The youth are the church. Right now. And they need to be let in on the serious theological discussions.
For 15 weeks, I have been engaged in really thoughtful conversation with the young people I serve about the ancestors of our faith. For 15 weeks, I have been blown away at their insight and their faithful exploration. And I have found once again that, when we challenge and encourage youth to wrestle with their faith, when we trust them to be bright enough to think theologically, that’s when we have youth that are engaged. That’s when we have youth that are growing. And that’s when we have youth that will even consider a future in the church.
Too often, ministry to youth and children becomes all about reinforcing clichés and convincing them that we have all the answers. But this isn’t something that forms ‘sticky’ faith. Too often, we don’t trust kids enough to really engage in their own spiritual formation, and then we’re shocked when kids at 14, 15, or 16 want to leave the church.
But really, adults, would you stay in a church if you weren’t allowed to claim your faith and make it your own?
Here’s a simple fact: it’s scary to trust youth. We never really know what they’re going to say or do. But which, I ask you, is scarier? A church that trusts their youth? Or a church that loses them and never gains them back?
I know where I weigh in; I wonder where our churches will.