A Youth Group Worth Looking At
“A generation of young Christians believes that the churches in which they were raised are not safe and hospitable places to express doubts.” That line from a new book by the Barna Group’s David Kinnaman called “You Lost Me.” That is sort of scary and I will be working my way through that text – but it is an echo of my experiences though I am from a much older generation.
Then I read a recent article in a local paper – the St. Louis Today from the Suburban Journals – about a new youth group being started up in Granite City, IL called “The 99.” The idea and the heart behind it all is great and hopes and prayers for their mission. I met and spoke with a young man today and he recounted his short and poor experiences with church and with youth groups and currently avoids both.
So here it is – do we do the social justice thing with our youth groups to get them more involved? But are we doing anything about that wall that keeps young people from church – is it safe? Now doing social justice work is awesome stuff, though someone made the point that performing social justice work (alone) is like arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Pretty harsh but a lot of truth there as well.
So the question is really how do we combine that mission for compassionate action (social justice works) with the Gospel message? I know the flipside is true – just talking about the Gospel message (without that social justice activity) makes Jesus look a little strange – all mouth and no hands and feet. Is there something in between that makes sense?
There is a group going on also in Granite City, IL that seems to be working a mix of the two in a way that fuels this social justice work by learning about how simple compassion supplies the energy and motivation to reach out to our neighbor. And what makes this all a difference is that learning about becoming a person of compassion wipes out any need to justify our social justice activity. We no longer need to compete in the market place of ideas and justifying our stance in the world. We are people seeking to live out our lives listening to the one who said “I AM” and that makes all the difference.
Most of the time we ask questions and break out to smaller groups to talk about the questions – we just look at and talk about that question and sometimes we come up with some ideas about how we are living and how living as an “I AM” might look like. We aim at trying not just to do something good – that begs the question of who gets to define what is “good.” I suspect that letting me be the one who gets to make up that definition may lead to some really screwy activity every now and then – but to become people who reflect Christ in our thinking and doing without having to judge – just being. I think that is real safety.
So we sit in a circle – loving that circle thing. There are no “teachers” standing up front giving lectures, writing the assignment on the board, and youth sitting in their chairs trying not to hit their head on the desk. It’s a conversation – sometimes a little spirited, sometimes a little silly – between what we like to call family. I have heard it said if we want people to experience the Kingdom of God and to dwell with God for eternity – starting right now and right where we are at – then how they experience their relationship with us should be a foretaste of that goodness and joy. The Apostle Paul says it this way – “When God called you, my dear family, He called you to make you free. But you mustn’t use that freedom as an opportunity for the flesh. Rather you must become each other’s servants through love. For the whole law is summed up in one word, namely this: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:13-14).
Maybe we can learn together, as a family, how to live out this life together. Love to have you join us.
Be blessed and be a blessing.