A Reflection on Graduation...

It’s that time of the year again—graduation season.  This is such a huge rite of passage into the beginning stages of adulthood.  I’ve received several announcements by mail from friends and family who have finished their grade school career; inviting me to the party their parents are throwing for them.  I look at their professional picture attached, and think about myself at that age.  Scary. What’s even scarier is the startling statistics out there about this age group and their faith.  Some of the latest numbers show anywhere between 70 and 80 percent of so-called Christian teens abandoning their church by their sophomore year in college.  The National Study of Youth and Religion has found that while most teenagers call themselves Christians, they don’t really have any knowledge of the content or history of their faith—nor do they really care.  The researchers have dubbed this dubious spirituality Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.  Here is the sum of their “faith”:
  1.  A god exists who created and orders the world and watches over life on earth.
  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions. 
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  4. God is not involved in my life except when I need God to resolve a problem.
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die. (Almost Christian, Kenda Creasy Dean, p.14)
The gospel message is mysteriously absent from most of these teenager’s ideas about who they are, who God is, and what their relationship is with Him.  As it turns out, teenagers and twenty-somethings seem to be a big mission field.  There are several important key factors that have led to this great decline in handing down our faith.  Obviously the gospel message itself is not being told and taught to our children.   As I have been reading some different books related to this subject, the one area that I want to focus on in this short article is mentoring.  Michael Horton always likes to say that we have segregated people by age in the church from the womb to the tomb.  We start with the nursery, and move onto children’s church, youth group, college/single’s groups, groups for divorcees, widows…but how often are we together in church?  When my husband and I were helping out with our youth group, we quickly noticed how cut off they were from many of the adults.  And, as a defense, I recognize how hard it is to build a relationship with a teenager—it can be very intimidating.  Matt and I prepared weekly lessons for Wednesday nights and I hope that they were beneficial.  My oldest daughter is now attending the youth group with a new, young leader that is doing a great job.  She is very excited to be there and eager to learn on a new level.  I’m glad that her new leader is putting the time into the group and that her relationships with the youth at our church are growing. But even more so, I know that she needs to connect with some older women, and even some of the younger girls.  One of the amazing things about the church is how it brings people together in a new family relationship.  In the covenant community of God’s church, friends are brought together that may not particularly have sought one another out.  Solanna knows how to make friends her own age.  I want her to be a part of the multi-generational, supernatural covenant family.  Hopefully she learns God’s word from her parents, but I also want her to see it reinforced in the conversations and lives of other families in my church.  It’s nice for a young, energetic youth leader to get our kids fired up.  But they also need to be in the context of people who can articulate and model their faith in marriage, tragedies, celebrations, and the everyday ordinary life.  Do our kids have various people to look up to in the faith?  Are you developing relationships with younger people in your church? Of course, mentoring is a biblical idea.  But our culture has a tendency to turn everything into a program.  I do believe the word mentor is helpful, but it’s not about assigning yourself to someone or visa-versa.  It’s about making an effort to be a friend to all ages.  In these friendships we have something to offer and something to learn.  Remember the influence you have as a woman of God, and pass down what you are learning.  One particular girl from my youth group was abrasive and stubborn to my invitation for lunch and coffee.  In my mind, she wanted nothing to do with me or my efforts towards a relationship.  Something made her show up anyway, and we have had many dates since.  Now she is a young adult and I am privileged to call her my friend.  In my home she has seen the implications of the gospel in my life: both my shining moments and the areas in which I struggle.   My hope is that in passing down my faith while sharing my life, my younger friends will learn some of my lessons sooner.  Having been included in my circle, they've certainly seen my humble stumbles, and most importantly, how God is faithful.  The journey of faith is hard, but real.  It is not always entertaining, but it is exciting.  It is not fabricated; it is authentic. Passing down our faith should be something that all age groups are interested in.  Whether you have children of your own or not, you still have something to teach.  Let them know that you care and they matter.  The good news is for all to hear, so start sharing your faith with those younger than you as well.  Maybe you already do.  Please leave a comment to share some of your own ideas. Meditation:  Titus 2: 1-5