Savages. Trouble-makers. Careless, thoughtless, apathetic and lazy. These have been the words used for centuries to describe [what we now have termed] teenagers. Even the Church’s lens has been clouded by these misperceptions and led to ridiculous statements like, “we must prepare the youth of today to be the church of tomorrow” or “these young people are the future of the church” or “why was that light broken or that room messy? – oh, it must be those unruly, unsupervised teenagers.”
Youth ARE the church. Today. Now.
And they carry with them an energy and passion that has the power to transform the world.
This week has been an amazing opportunity of bringing back to our local community what we learned and experienced on our youth mission trip less than a month ago. We served last Thursday at a local Soup Kitchen and organized ourselves to lead our church’s Vacation Bible School – not just for the children in our local congregation but for our community. Every morning this week we’ve had fifty kids walk over from the elementary school next door to enjoy Surf Shack VBS. We had three to six adults, only two of whom led stations; and seven youth who showed up every morning to lead the kids through the different stations, learning the stories of how “God Creates,” “God Helps,” God Calms,” and “God Sends.”
Watching the youth interact with the kids nearly brought tears to my eyes. Each day the youth would come in half-asleep but when the kids arrived, they woke up, like a light switch being turned on. The first day, a youth peered around the corner and said, excitedly, “the games stations is working! It’s going great!” At snack time, the youth taught the kids our “Superman Blessing” that we do as a youth group. After each day the youth shared stories of how fun their kids were and how good it felt to be there, to serve; to be in charge. Parents said their youth wouldn’t stop talking about how fun it was. And to top it all off – those same youth (and more) showed up again in the events to help with our evening VBS!
Our church has always had a “youth” class. So I kind of messed that up this year when, only a week or so after Confirmation, two rising 8th grade boys were looking at our VBS recruiting board and asked if they could lead games. Youth, asking to lead something? (Whomever would say “no” to that, we need to talk.) Of course I said yes! I was so excited that they took their Confirmation vows seriously – to support the ministry of the church with their prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness.
Those two boys inspired other youth to step up and want to lead; then those youth inspired other youth. Like a domino effect; It’s been an amazing experience of seeing how youth inspire one another to lead, to serve. How wonderful is it that these youth chose to get up early for a whole week of summer mornings when they could’ve slept in…to make a difference in the lives of children in our community (and adults who were inspired by the youth’s leadership).
Those who work with youth or who have the ability to influence youth involvement in the church and/or community: let’s say YES when youth want to lead; let’s create opportunities for them to lead; let’s value youth as important members of our community NOW (as opposed to some arbitrary future date/time) and utilize their energy, enthusiasm, and passion to transform our world.
Praise be to God for these “savages” and their commitment to following Jesus. Praise God for these youth who take seriously our motto to “do good” — however, whatever, whenever, wherever, forever.