Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

STUFF 2013 cross-generational ministry . . . aka, ministry

 Given my current touring schedule, it will be some time before I am in a pulpit again.  Thus, it seems a good opportunity to reprint a few pieces I've written for various publications over the past few years.  
The theme for the Fall 2010 Issue of Connect Journal was "Cross-Generational Ministry," and my regular column is called "A View from Elsewhere."
Herewith my submission, with apologies for violations of contractual contracts etc . . .

Cross-Generational Ministry . . . a.k.a. Ministry

Though I didn’t realize it at the time, there was a strong message being sent in my congregation growing up in Niagara Falls, NY. 

Every year, there was one Sunday set aside as “Youth Sunday.”  This was the annual worship service where the youth group picked and played the hymns (hymns!), and read the lessons, and preached a sermon (by way of a skit, usually), and . . . well, of course there was no communion on Youth Sunday, so that was about it.  We’d plan for months, and we took pride in doing a good job for Youth Sunday.

So, the strong message I mentioned?  It was simply this: By picking one Sunday each year as Youth Sunday, the implication is that 51 Sundays of the year are not youth Sundays.  The very fact that one Sunday was set aside for the youth to participate tells everyone that 51 Sundays a year are off limits.

But there’s another implication in this as well.  Even though the youth only had the one Sunday each year devoted to full-on participation, it was obvious to everyone that the adults would not be participating on that particular annual Youth Sunday.  Never crossed our minds to encourage the adults to help us out with Youth Sunday.  I mean, they’re not youths, right?

And the point I’m trying to make is this . . .

Everyone knows that adults misunderstand and exclude youth from “churchy” things.  Everyone knows that young people rebel in order to show that they’re capable of independence, and need freedom and all that.  But it seems to kind of slip past us to consider the other side of that denarius.

It’s not often that young people take time to consider what life is like for people their parents’ age.  I know that’s true, because I was young once myself, believe it or not.  It never crossed my mind to consider that the adults around me might be suffering just as badly if not worse than I was.  The myopia wasn’t my fault, of course, but still the case all the same.

But here’s the point I want to make: Youth leaders often play into this system of separation and alienation by having things intentionally geared toward youth.  No adults allowed, and the assumption is, no adults would want to be allowed.  On the other hand, what if youth workers made a point of inviting adults to some youth group events and activities?  What if the adults were invited to come along on the ski trip, with the understanding that they are guests, not the chaperones?  What if on Youth Sunday we let a couple adults do something crazy like, say, light the candles?  What if the other 51 Sundays we let the youth pick the music sometimes?  Or, better yet, what if we just allowed everyone to participate in everything?  You know, as if there were no longer Jew or Greek, male or female, young or old? 

And yes yes, I know plenty of churches are doing just this kind of thing.  I just wish that when I was in youth group someone would’ve thought to treat me like a fully included baptized child of God, rather than a member of . . . what’s the word I’m looking for?  Special interest group perhaps?  Treating young people like adults might actually lead to young people treating adults like kids.  And, I have to say, there’s something to be said for that.  There’s a lot to be said for that!

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