by Gennie Callard
"If we week God's transformation for adolescents - and if we hope to convince them that Christianity is worth the trouble - the mainline church must reclaim passion, and specifically God's pass in Jesus Christ, as fundamental to our identity. This will require a more self-conscious theological awareness for youth ministry than we currently possess. It will also shift youth ministry's emphasis away from sociology, psychology, anthropology, educational theory - not to mention car washes and lock-ins - towards theology, and especially practical theology, that form of theological reflection concerned with Christian actions. This is not to say that youth ministry as practical theology never needs car washes or lock-ins, only that these youth activities - like all church activities - are harnessed for a larger purpose: to enlist young people in the mission of God." (Practicing Passion by Kenda Creasy Dean p.21)
Children and youth are passionate. This is evident when you see a child cry because his toy is taken away and see a teenager cry when she listens to her favorite song. They are filled to overflowing with emotions.
God is passionate. This is evident when God created a flood, Jesus broke the tables and the Holy Spirit appeared as flames. These weren't small non-emotional things - these were big and intended to cause a reaction.
When we insist our services be calm and quiet, filled with silent reverence, perhaps we are doing a disservice to our children and youth. Now, I'm not advocating for our service to be filled with rock music and stages, but I do think our churches need to become a little less boring. We need to worship with passion and show the children and youth in our midst what it means to be a Christian - to be an Episcopalian.
Many of our Episcopal church service are boring. When you ask kids why they don't want to go to church, that's what they say - it's boring. And, often, it is. But we, as adults, have learned that we have to put up with it - eat the vegetables to get the dessert (is the dessert coffee hour or heaven, not sure). But it doesn't have to be. Not all preachers can be holy rollers (thank you, Bishop Michael Curry), not all choirs can be angels from heaven (thank you Live Hymnal), but there are things we can do.
Celebrate the Eucharist with joy!
Act as if you're actually glad to be there, which hopefully you are.
Make sure the service is relevant to people of all ages!
Church is not only for adults - we are full members when we're baptized, and as long as we believe in baptizing children, we need to make sure that church is relevant for them too.
Let there be some noise!
And I don't mean only the squiring of children and the whispering of teenagers, I also mean leaving room for people to name their petitions aloud during the Prayers of the People and saying the prayers like you mean them.
Teach people the benefits and the troubles with being a Christian.
From the Society of Saint John the Evangelist (ssje.org)As it says in the above quote "Christianity is worth the trouble." With that we need to first teach them what the trouble is - that Christianity is difficult. Being a Christian means loving your neighbor (all of them - no matter what), it means practicing compassion (if someone else is in pain, I should be bothered by it), forgiveness (if someone does something wrong, I forgive them), it means community and reconciliation (do what I can to bring people into the community and reconnect with those I've had problems with).
Deans states that we "require a more self-conscious theological awareness for youth ministry." What is your theology, and how can you make sure the kids who attend your church know that?
At camp our theology is that we come together to form a Christian community. Each thing we do and decision we make is based around that theology - that foundation. And this past year, when Karmel, our Diocesan Communications person, came to interview the campers she asked them what was so special about camp - they said the community. Our "mission" is to create this community so that the kids knows what it feels like and can go into the world and create their own Christian communities, or find ones in which to participate.
What is the mission of your church? Why should people attend church? How are you showing the children and youth in your life that "Christianity is worth the trouble?"