I have heard it said, over and over that our youth of today are the future of our church. I’m not sure that I agree with statement, whole-heartedly. Yes, it is a fact that some today’s youth will grow up, go off to college, come back, get married, have children, and will be the adults of tomorrow’s church. And, I’d like to think that we’re instilling the priority to our youth that even if they don’t come back to Zion Lutheran Church they would be a part an active part of some Christian church, somewhere. But, I think there is more to it ... I think our youth are not only the church of TOMORROW but they should be, in fact, known as the church of TODAY.
I mean, just think about some of the leaders in the Bible who were young. They actually teach some really good lessons. Here are three examples:
First, there was David. Come on, he killed an intimidating, skilled, giant of a man. You’ll remember that young David, not even old enough to be in the army, came to the “front lines” (at the request of his father) to bring some food to his brothers and check on them. When David got there, he simply looked at the problem (of the Philistine army / Goliath), faced his own limitations, prayed to God for help, and defeated Goliath. The lesson? “Young” David despite his age and lack of experience figured out how to use the skills he did have! After all, he was a shepherd-boy and he defended his sheep all the time against wild animals. David’s gifts? A cool head and an inventive brain. Don’t those same characteristics apply to some of the youth of today?
Then there’s Mary. Young, pregnant, Mary, the mother of Jesus. Can you imagine being young and in a situation not well accepted by society? Don’t get me wrong, I am not comparing, judging, or suggesting any of our youth should willingly get themselves into situations not accepted by society. However, I am suggesting “young” Mary’s actions in the situation were heroic. When Mary found herself and her family in a stressful and unfortunate (by societal standards) situation, she was able to accept that God had a plan for her even though she couldn’t understand it. And, I think there is a lesson we can take from Mary when she found herself in this troublesome situation. Mary connected with a mentor, Elizabeth. Mary sought her mentor’s guidance, thoughts, and support. On the other hand, Elizabeth listened and learned a lot from Mary; and Mary was, in turn, a support to Elizabeth.
And, what about Timothy? Timothy has been a traveling companion of Paul. The influence that he had over the early Christian church became extra-ordinary. But, Timothy, was very young for a church leader; we know this because Paul tells him “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for other believers!” (1 Tim 4:12). In the two letters sent to Timothy by Paul, Timothy appears as timid, perhaps because of his relative youth. On the other hand, it is believed that Timothy became the first bishop of Ephesus, and that he was martyred there in 97 AD. The lesson? We can’t lead people where we ourselves have never been. Paul taught that to Timothy. So how can we expect our youth to lead the church tomorrow, if we don’t TEACH them and INCLUDE them and TRUST them in the decision making processes of today?
There are modern day examples, too! These are examples of “young” leaders from our congregation who are, truly, setting the example from 1 Timothy 4:12 (please note: there are many I could share; I’ve limited myself to 3 examples but I am proud of all of my students).
Take Christian, an 11th grader. He and some of his friends dressed up and went trick or treating last night! According to Christian’s mom, Christian and his friends ran into another mom who started interrogating them, thinking they may be the older kids who snatched her 11 year old son's candy and ran with it. After talking to Christian and his friends, this mom realized it was not them. Here’s the extra-ordinary part of the story. After this conversation, Christian and his friends filled a bag with all of the candy they had collected and took it over to the little boy’s house. Nope, it’s not saving the world. But, they did “save” that little boy’s world and probably sparked a Halloween memory for that little boy that he will not soon forget and may one day share with his children.
Don't forget, Kara, a 12th grader. She was very frustrated and offended by some bullying that was going on in one of her classes at school. Several times, Kara “stood up” to the bullies in the class and asked them to stop picking on another student. Kara was able to be proactive in the situation and help stop the negative behavior that was hurting another student. Nope, she didn’t save the school from a terrorist or anything, but she did stop one student from being terrorized and isn’t worried about what those bullies think about her for standing up to them.
What about Jordan, a 10th grader. Jordan has been a part of Zion for over 10 years and is in her second year of serving on our student leadership team. Jordan is running for church council this year. Jordan is a great example of perseverance, for me, because she has acknowledged the fact that because of her (and the youth of Zion’s) age, teenagers are often looked down upon or not taken seriously. Jordan KNOWS and MAINTAINS and is EXCITED that the youth of our church could have a voice on church council. Jordan and the youth are excited for an opportunity for the youth to step up and become a part of the Zion decision making process.
Considering these past and modern day examples, it seems that teenagers are actively engaged in being the church of today, not just tomorrow. I am very proud of the students with whom I share in ministry and I am excited that, together, we will grow and make a difference in the world!