My son is at a local vacation bible school this morning. It’s being held in a quaint, beautiful sanctuary, where on the platform is placed a painted mural of the Serengeti plain.
A team of young girls are doing humorous dramatic skits on all manner of moral themes. My little guy smiles, claps and sings when his social guard is down. He admires these young heroes in front of him, leading songs and innocently guiding he and his friends through what may be the best week of their summer.
I hope they’ll teach him that the Church should be leading the way in decreasing world debt, ending the AIDs crisis in Africa, and caring for our neighbour who’s fighting for their marriage.
My other two girls, a pre-teen and a teen, are at a charismatic inter-denominational camp in the beautiful Great Smokey Mountains of western North Carolina. We usually theologically debrief a bit when they return, not because what they’ve learned is wrong, but just because it’s good to reflect on our experience in light of the whole of culture, sub-cultures, and the Kingdom of God.
St. Stephen’s Universty students and leaders we love are also constantly in our home. My kids are starting to sound like them – which is both good and bad according to the moment.
Emerging Church influencers are working to shape the Kingdom thinking of their peers. Welcome to the late 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond. Yet, it is in engaging the youngest among us that we may find to be our most fruitful community of attention. Granted, an influenced pastor or 20-something will create atmospheres for kids and kids workers to grow in their sense of place in an historic Church. And yet….
And yet, when a teen is learning to authentically love the people in the world around them, learning to pray for the sick, widen their world concerns beyond the next “fun” activity they’re looking forward to, dig the stories of Francis of Assisi’s choice of friends, worship with contemporary and ancient songs, care for the poor globally, love real community, consider the lessons of history, read more than just “bible books” and consider the historic riches of the Eucharist, lectio divina and a variety of other worship expressions as relevant and valuable, we may be doing the most good.
Even my son understands the communion elements at the age of 9, and realizes that eating the cracker and drinking the cup is a way of remembering what Jesus has done. I tell him that in the early Church and even Orthodox view, communion is more a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection than it is of simply His death. I tell him that resurrection means that dead things can come alive.
I tell him that to be a Christian means that we join God in helping dead things in the world come alive again.
If character and personality are foundationally formed by the age of 3, and most decisions to follow the way of Jesus are made in the pre-teen and teen years, then we should consider a re-weighting of our influence with the younger set — though aged children are we all.