For the past two weeks I've been preaching at a youth conference in Montreat, NC. Each night, I'm part of a team that plans and leads a complete worship service for an auditorium full of high schoolers from around the country. The invitation to help lead was extended two years ago. Not having experience with youth ministry, I was initially excited by the challenge. As the conference came near my excitement was tempered by fear. Was I "hip" enough to connect with the youth? Don't teenagers sleep all the time - what can I do to keep them awake through a sermon? I may have even got a little paranoid and started questioning my clothing.
After two weeks and 10 sermons, it's clear my fears were unfounded. Here are a few other things I learned.
- Youth are still hopeful. They are dreamers that believe God is at work in the world. They aren't as ironic or cynical as ironic, cynical adults make them out to be.
- Youth are willing to work hard. Our planning team and the summer staff at Montreat is powered by a cohort of young people that don't miss deadlines, are on time, and work long hours without complaint.
- Youth still sing and dance in worship. I've been challenged by their willingness to sing out loud and dance freely with feeling and vulnerability. It makes me wonder what happens on their journey to adulthood that turns them into statues during worship later?
- Youth don't need the adults to encounter God as much as the adults need the youth.They ask the obvious questions that we adults are often unwilling to address because it's uncomfortable or might destabilize the stuff we take for granted. Last night, one of them asked me a pointed question about my sermon on Monday that made me reconsider a central theme of the sermon. She approached me with grace and a curious spirit, ready to listen, and impossible to dismiss.
I'm not going to leave DOWNTOWN CHURCH to work with youth full time, but the past two weeks have made it clear that our church needs to move with more speed to make room for teenagers. What do you say DTC? Is there anyone willing to join us in finally starting a youth program?