Teenage years are a time of massive growth and discovery of passions, hopes and goals, and sense of self. In school, teens are preparing to either go into the work field or continue education while juggling sports and clubs, family and friends, social lives, and then we hope they show up in church as well. With all the obligations pulling our teens in different directions we sometimes neglect the spiritual needs of our youth because we think they're already overwhelmed or simply not interested.
Youth formation offers the chance to invest in a young person's spiritual and emotional self in ways not touched on in an academic or social context. Education in schools differs from education in church in many key ways, not the least of these being an overt call to honor the person's inner divinity and sacred whole being. We remind ourselves that Jesus Christ dwells in each of us and we celebrate it through service and prayer. We gather together to share meals, laugh, enjoy Creation, and just be as beloved people of God. And we pray, we pray, we pray. We pray when we come together and when we part, we pray when we eat, when we travel together, and when we feel so moved. We learn methods of prayers and offering gratitude and that God is always with us, listening.
We do all this without the certainty of knowing all the answers. Formation molds us by both teaching and allowing space for questions, doubt, and conversation. Formation calls us to serve and see Christ in others. Formation grants us opportunities to find and create fellowship. Youth formation in particular offers tools to create compassionate and curious young people of faith. The theology and faith practices that they are exposed to now guides and shapes the spiritual path that they will follow for many years. Setting up healthy avenues of exploration and discovery sets strong foundations and habits that can be lived into for more than the sake of tradition. It fosters experiences that bring and keep young people in our churches and in relationship with Jesus, not because of expectations, but because it nourishes them.
I was deeply involved in youth ministry throughout middle and high school and carved the person I am today. It offered me a chance to think critically outside of school and still get to be silly. It cultivated young leaders from my peers and myself through depending on us to lead events and retreats. It showed me that family was larger than blood and adults cared for and respected me and my opinions. It encouraged me to learn more about my faith's traditions and empowered me to get more involved in my church. It taught me to be kind and compassionate and it challenged me to live into a Christian life.
I am inspired and passionate about bringing these kinds of transformational experiences to our youth at All Saints'. We can do this in several ways. Let's begin by modeling our own formation and spiritual journey by engaging in multigenerational dialogue. Ask young people questions about their life and their relationship with Jesus and listen! It is vital that we allow space for our youth to grow as people of faith while offering a backdrop for healthy faith. The most important task for aiding youth and their formation is to pray for them. Pray for their involvement in school and extracurricular activities, pray for their friends and interactions with the world, and pray for their discernment.
Those of us who have made it out of the murky waters that are our teenage years know that everything will turn out okay, but that clarity may be difficult when in the throngs of middle and high school. When we show up in prayer or in person we are reminding ourselves and our youth that we care for a cherish them as full members of the Body of Christ and welcome them with open arms.