It’s pressure time in youth ministry where I live. Met with a mom today who is questioning a 4-year commitment to Confirmation for her high schooler. Don’t I know how busy high schoolers are? Don’t I understand her kid gets Christian instruction at her school? I get her questions. I do! We had a great talk, and in the end, I might have done the stupidest thing, but i consider it probably the wisest thing. I set her free. And i set her kid free. Grace. You’re baptized. You don’t have to do this. If i had my druthers, we’d “affirm” baptism at the START of the process and invite you into on-going instruction all the way thru middle and high school. Unit-style, probably… so you can learn in parts about what Lutherans confess, and we’d have the relational stuff and the service/mission stuff and it’s the what-we-do bc of who-we-are stuff. But that’s not tradition, and that’s not the class picture for grandma, and … whatever.
Then this afternoon, I had no-duh thought. The one thing i didn’t talk to her about was Search Institute and research that shows these years really matter for teens. We put a lot of investment into kids sunday school, and also the youth ministry because the research really does show how families live during these years make an impact that goes all the way to the grave. I really believe that. It’s why i serve. I didn’t think to share that. I could have. Then, grace came over me, and said, friend, it wouldn’t have mattered. Love is the higher law, and freedom is the best alternative to bondage.
At the beginning of Confirmation, maybe i should say, I’m here because moms and dads, YOU made a promise! Parents promise at baptism to live this stuff out, and it’s not a “get it done” thing… it’s a life thing. And it is a church thing. it is! I serve because as a church we have your back on that promise. We want to help. We want to make church cool, in a sense, for kid to prioritize it. What i mean by “cool” is inclusive and multi-generational and counter-cultural. If you’re looking for a fast track, tell me how many other commitments your kid is making 8-days a week that offer a fast track? What do you want for your child’s faith? Why did you baptize her? What did your promises mean? If it was dead empty religion, think again. I think God was in those promises and it’s not too late. We together can do this ~ for life.
I was honest. I told the mom, we don’t make adults do any of this. If they come to us from any other church or any other faith or from no-faith and they want to be members, they go to 3 or 4 sessions, take a tour of the building and they get their little welcome packet. That’s it… I think that’s deeply flawed. And I hope to be an influence in that. I’d love to see intergenerational Confirmation. Progressive or stupid, call it what you need to. There are glaring inconsistencies and we do a lot of this bc it’s always been done. THAT i don’t like, at all.
Today when I left that meeting, i remarked to a colleague, was I really hired full-time so that i could tell families they don’t have to go to church anymore? Has it come to that? Have we given it all away in youth ministry? What year did this shift happen and could we have stopped it? Should we have? What is counter-cultural anymore? I’m all for changing paradigms and blowing this thing up. If Wednesday nights are dead, will you give me a Saturday morning? Will you give me a Monday before school? We need to be together. I want to pray with your kid. I want your kid to give a damn about another believer and invest in learning the creeds and putting some stock in their faith bank. I think it matters and I believe they want it to matter. So we have to get together on this.
This only encourages me to get out of rusty thinking and re-invent. Reform, and pray more.