I had a great conversation with Michael, a pastor from Minnesota about some of the unique challenges and opportunities we face in our context. I was sharing with him the ways in which some of the youngsters from the neighborhood can be disrupting, disrespectful, and unruly, but simultaneously our conviction that they belong in the church and that we have the joy and the duty to help them discover their unique destiny and purpose in the Kingdom. He provided some insightful comments about the way in which we can partner with God in the lives of neighborhood kids:
"Just to get you started, we always talk about how our children are NOT the church of the future, they are the church today. That mostly throughout the scriptures God works with and calls us when we are very young. About how God want to fill them with the Holy Spirit and teach them how to deeply rely on and relate to him right now in their lives. They don't get a "Happy Meal Toy" version of God, but he is offering all of himself to our kids—and we want to make sure they get everything God is offering. About how what goes on with our kids is WAY more important than what goes on with the adults if you think for a moments about the long-term health of our church and families. I could rant on this topic for quite a while… You try it, as it's lots of fun!"
This has got me thinking about the way in which I personally relate to neighborhood kids, and the way in which the church as a whole does.
I believe I have unintentionally set aside my own responsibility to them in two ways.
First, its not my calling, or my passion; I have seen youth ministry and Sunday School as something that I am not responsible for because my primary purpose and ministry is to adults. Second, because I only have limited time to spend with the kids (before or after service, or bumping into them on the street) I have felt like I don't have the ability to make much of an impact on them.
In conversing with Michael I have felt the Holy Spirit challenging me to change my perspective. First, it may indeed be true that I am called to other areas of focus, but that does not mean that I cannot still be intentional and influential with the young men and women in our neighborhood. Second, it may indeed be true that I don't always have opportunities for deep engagement with the kids, but that does not mean that I cannot be intentional and influential with the short interactions that I do have with them.