Have you thought recently about the lessons you’d like to leave with your kids, or the other young people in your life? Here’s an excellent sampling of some parental wisdom, that even adults could stand to remember. This letter from a mom turning 40 has gone viral online. (And by the way, if some of the lessons sound familiar – tomorrow is a new day, help someone else, set priorities – it could be because we’ve all read them somewhere else already. The best advice is still about 2,000 years old.)
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If you are looking for a discussion to have with your older youth, this might be a good one: why would someone as powerful as Beyonce, or as A-list as Emma Stone still feel they should pose half-naked on the cover a magazine? A good column debating this question came out in the Guardian this week: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/15/beyonce-photographed-underwear-feminism . It raises a lot of pertinent questions for young men and women who are inundated with this kind of advertising. What does it say about the lingering roles of women in society? Do they recognize that the pictures are heavily airbrushed? Does it alter their opinion of these actresses and singers? A lot of what our kids absorb online goes unchallenged these days, so it’s a good idea to take regular opportunities to discuss these ethical issues with them. You may not agree with all their answers, but at least you are helping them to consider the questions.
Why do we put our youth in a box? On Thursday night, I attended the opening of the 131st General Assembly for the Ottawa diocese, and heard Bishop Chapman’s charge to the synod. He had some interesting comments to make about the presence of youth in our churches. To distill it down, Read more »
We’ve all seen them on YouTube. The Hallelujah Chorus at the Seaway Mall in Welland, ON, a mass of dancers at the Vancouver Airport in B.C., a surprise performance at the airport in Halifax raising funds for breast cancer. Called flash mobs, they use social media, viral emails, and websites. They immediately lift the mood an entire airport or city street – an expression of spontaneous generosity.
Now he didn’t have the internet, but I imagine the arrival of Jesus and the followers felt a little like a flash mob to those unsuspecting communities they met along the way. And I bet the impact was very similar. A message of Good News in the middle of everyday life. Can you imagine the emotional experience that must have been for both the given and the receiver?
“What happened to us as a church?” asked Greta Conrads, a young adult from the community I serve. “The church in Jesus day seemed to be fun and free and risky. I want to see more of that”.
I hear plenty of pastors and leader tell me that they don’t have enough youth in their church to have a youth group – let alone a flash mob. Our young people, such as Greta, aren’t worrying about numbers. They are the voice of Jesus asking us: why are we here? What have we done today? They are the spirited disciples waiting, eager, to be called.
So how do we call them? In my conversation with youth, they tell me:
Don’t take attendance: Our youth have a lot going on, and if they want to play hockey or sing in a community choir, that means they will probably miss church on occasion. It’s not how often they come that matters to them – it’s what they do when they are here. And it doesn’t have to be happen only on Sunday morning.
Don’t make them sit there: It’s amazing what happens every time I ask a young person to read in church, or serve as acolyte or worship assistant, or perform an anthem, and even preach a sermon. They say yes.
Value them: Youth tell me that sometimes they feel like they are members-in-waiting, holding the place for their adult selves. They are secondary voices at annual meetings, or Christmas pageant performers. Don’t underestimate the power of engaged and energetic youth – even a small group of youth – to inspire the rest of us. To lead us forward in the gospel.
Teach them: It is not enough to say, “Do the right thing, be a good person.” That’s not where Jesus stopped the conversation. Jesus was a practical and strategic leader. Our youth want those same skills. It’s not useful to urge them to stand up to bullying, for instance, if we do not give them the steps to do so. Jesus, for instance, surrounded himself with the disciples, and as a group they spoke against what they knew was wrong in society. Our youth can learn do the same: to rally their friends to confront the bully. They can learn public speaking, how to foster positive mental health, how to manage their digital lives. In this way, the church takes on the responsibility of training the next generation of leaders – not just the next generation of Lutherans.
Be as bold as a Flash Mob: Last year, the confirmation class at Saint John, Ottawa showed up unexpectedly at a senior’s residence and performed a play. It was their idea: a spontaneous gift to some lonely people who don’t see many youth. It was huge hit with the residents. This Fall a student ministry group at the University of Ottawa called Open Table have other plans: to go to the market and hand out pieces of pie to the homeless, just to brighten someones day. Our young people live in an age where time moves quickly, and they don’t want to sit around in committees all day. They want to be a part of something that makes the world a better place, one random act of generosity at a time.
Our young people travel effortlessly in a society where one well-placed tweet on Twitter or one strategic video on YouTube can make millions pay attention. They already recognize the power of a small group of risk-takers to move a crowd, to get everyone singing the Hallelujah chorus. It’s time we let them teach us. After all, it’s boring on the sidelines.
I blogged recently on how we practice business for the sake of busy, and how very often it feels like we lack intention in what we do. We don’t take the time to reflect on why we don’t invite people to church and a whole host of other things that get lost in the rat-race we call life. There’s a reason why Jesus, was firm about getting away from it all and getting rest. How can we find focus if we don’t take the time to plan our day? Read more »
In 2005, Reverend Oliver White stood in front of his congregation in the United church he had founded 22 earlier, and announced his support for same-sex marriage. Within weeks two-thirds of his membership had left, and, you can imagine what happened to the offerings. But Rev. White, an activist in the Civil Rights movement, refused to back down from a position he felt was not only morally correct, but also clearly supported by the gospel. As he explains in an interview with Atlantic magazine: Read more »
From pink lego lines (marketed to girls, complete with a hair salon) to science kits (with only boys depicted on the box) we send our youth all kinds of subtle and not-to-subtle messages about who they are supposed to be, and who society expects them to be. A new movie by Pixar out this summer called Brave, appeared to debunk at least some of those stereotypes – based on the trailer I saw recently, it’s about an Irish princess (there we go again with princesses!) who decided to determine her own destiny and break away from tradition. Read more »
Better to eat a dry crust of bread with peace of mind than to have a banquet in a house full of trouble. Proverbs 17:1
We live in the banquet world where just about everything we want is presented for our consumption. For the most part, Canadians are not living off of the dry crust. If we were honest most of us throw that part away for the succulence of the centre.
A recent study shows that one in five teens suffer from obesity. http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertglatter/2012/05/22/imp-read-teenagers-in-2012-at-increased-risk-for-heart-disease/?ss=strategies-solutions Read more »