It’s a warm, sunny, spring day. God’s creation in all sorts and forms – crocuses, humans, spiders – are emerging from their winter slumber. The feeling of hope and optimism is palpable in every encounter. We have survived another (sorta) winter. The future looks promising!
In some of our faith communities, this sense of a promising future is not present. Many, even those living sustainably, worry about the future of the Church. Because, the sentiment is, young people are not present. This is a sentiment that I understand, yet it is not the reality that I see.
Are there categorically less young people in church than in the 1960’s? Unquestionably.
Are there less faithful young people discerning their gifts and desiring to share those gifts for God’s mission? Absolutely not.
In fact, in my thirty-plus years of serving with young people, I am more impressed with their depth of faithfulness and motivation to share their gifts than ever.
The reality is that for some young people, Sunday morning doesn’t work. For some the service is just too early. For others their lives are extremely full and Sundays don’t work. Still others define their faithful community more creatively – they meet on Sunday or Wednesday nights, at Teens Encounter Christ retreats or at summer Camp.
One of the fundamental questions asked of us in the Baptismal Covenant is, “Will you seek and serve Christ…”(BCP pg. 305). Foundational for me in this question is the belief that God is engaged in the world, and our commitment is to, as the Prophet Isaiah encourages us, “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near”(Isaiah 55:6).
As such, in my experience if you want to find faithful young people you need to go where they are. This is why I do everything possible to make it to youth group gatherings, Teens Encounter Christ retreats around the state, camps in the summer, the University Episcopal Community in Minneapolis, Breck and Shattuck – St. Mary’s – wherever I hear our young people are gathering.
In my experience, when I make the effort to “seek,” I find faithful young people discerning their gifts and desiring to share those gifts for God’s mission. And every time I do, the feeling of hope and optimism is palpable in every encounter. The future looks promising.