Our ‘Back to Church 2013’ preparatory group got to work right away. Each of us were assigned homework to complete before our next meeting a week later.
In 250 words we were to journal an answer to the following question: Describe a time when you responded positively to an invitation from the church. So, here is mine ….
I could remember when as a thirteen year old I was very much aware the church had a youth group. But I was the pastor’s kid and, well, I was in worship every week. I had the impression that church leaders sort of expected me to go or at least not give the excuse that “I didn’t know”. I suppose that throughout my childhood and youth my relationship with the church was wrapped up in the enigma of assumptions and presumptions. And it may very well still be!
Frankly, I didn’t know what to do about the start of another year of youth group, meeting every Tuesday night at the church. I remember feeling a little anxious, socially. My father, the pastor, quietly indicated to me that youth group might be a good idea.
But I wasn’t in a space to act on his recommendation alone, although people presumed it would be the most natural line of communication. Their presumption may have given them permission not to bother taking any responsibility in the matter. (Perhaps I’m presuming now, too!)
I observe to this day parents who are down on themselves on account of what they see as their failure not to get their teenage (and older) kids to church. This, even though they would be the first to admit that parents aren’t always the best people positioned for the critical invite.
Everything changed for me after the youth group leader came up to me one Sunday after worship, and asked: “Would you like to come to youth group on Tuesday evening? I think you might enjoy it.” It was an awkward moment for both of us — for him because I could tell he was a bit nervous; for me, because I wasn’t honestly sure whether I wanted to go and what I should say in response.
In the end, I went. Maybe because I knew some of the youth that were going — and I thought they were pretty cool. But mostly because that core group demonstrated through its various activities and adventures together a really strong connection with each other and their faith in God.
Because that individual (not a family member, not a pastor) asked me, despite my status as the infamous PK (i.e. Pastor’s Kid) who should know all things church, my spiritual journey took the course it did — eventually landing me at the seminary, and working as an ordained pastor for over 15 years now.
If that particiular invitation wasn’t made at that critical time, who knows where I would have gone and done with my life? Let me just say how grateful I am for TS — his quiet courage, his guts, his boldness despite his nervousness. Thank you.
I know as parent today that I have a great responsibility in the spiritual development of my own children. I take that seriously. However, I know from my own experience that it’s not just the parents who will determine the outcome of their children’s faith journeys. Others are just as important, even more so, in offering that critical invitation.
Okay, that was more than 250 words!