The Future of the Church?
We have often heard it said of the youth and the children of the church: "They are the future of our church." Perhaps, we've said it ourselves - I know I have at times. This statement may be simple, but it is full of meaning. At times, it is proclaimed with a sense of pride when some of our younger folks take up the mantle of ministry for a short while and complete a task in the church - for example, leading worship, singing a song in worship, completing a mission project. Other times, it is stated even with a sense of hope, acknowledging that we adults will not be around forever but that our church and our legacy are in good hands if these are the young folks who will one day take over our roles in leadership. Still other times, it said instead with a sense of sacrifice and concession that we need to make less desirable decisions - such as style of music - now to appeal to the younger generation and ensure that they will continue to hang around until its their turn to lead.
This past Sunday, we (finally) celebrated our Youth Sunday, and what a great experience of worship it was! "They are the future of our church," it was said more than once. "There were our replacements up there." These were definitely offered in both the senses of pride and hope for the future, and very well they should be. We have much to be proud of and hopeful for in the youth that led worship this past week.
Yet, seeing the awesome, Spirit-filled presence of our youth this past Sunday, of our kids singing at Easter, of youth reading Scripture and offering prayers during Advent, of children teaching me (and I imagine all of us) through their questions and comments in the children's sermons week by week, I wonder if they are our future at all. Hearing from Isaac in his sermon about the conversations he has had with friends about God, listening to my own children pick apart my Easter Sunrise sermon at breakfast that morning, witnessing our kids' willingness to give whatever they have to help another person, I am convinced they are not merely the future of our church; they are very much our present as well. They are hearing the good news we teach in worship, in Sunday School, and on Wednesdays. They are watching how we worship God on Sunday mornings and how we serve God throughout the week. They are witnessing what we believe it means to follow Jesus, and they are living it now - not just planning to live it in the future. Sure, the children and youth may not be on our committees, they may not be funding the budget and all the emergency expenses, and they may not be filling in as Sunday School teachers. Yet, they are in ministry in the name of Jesus Christ in a real way and often in places where we could not be.
We are blessed that God has entrusted so many children and youth to our care for us to pass along the faith that was once handed down to us. May we adults remember to encourage and make room for our children and youth to be not only the future of our church but very much a part of its present as well!
Blessings on the journey,
Living in Community
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Port Republic, VA 24471