August 19, 2018
Starting this reflection about youth in the church with the death of an ancient, Old Testament, king in the back of my mind is a strange place to begin. My “today” mind is full of the images I am enjoying on social media of young people in the middle of summer mission immersions, camps, service projects and other summer activities. My “writing” mind is thinking about what a dying king, King David, as described in one of today’s liturgical passages, has to offer us about youth in the church and the world. And then it hits. David, who “lays down” with his ancestors and is buried in the city he helped establish, once stood as a young man, among his sheep, in the shadow of a giant enemy, with his best friend Jonathan, with his music and poetry and indeed, with his God, at one end of his life and faith. And here, today, as we catch up with David, his earthly life is ending, but his legacy, his leadership, his goodness and his … not so goodness … is also wrapped up in his life and death.
We do not do youth ministry simply for young people, for distraction, safety or expectation. We do youth ministry because youth or adolescence is a part of a lifelong trajectory of our purpose, our call, the reason God has given us to this world. We serve God among young people and we are young people in the presence of God to serve others. Like David, our young people have gifts. Like David, our young people carry on family expectations and stories. Like David, our young people face enemies, so many enemies that some days I feel almost too anxious that we cannot protect them or even scratch at the surface of what they need from us. Like David, our young people will write the poetry of our church and they will recite the poetry of their older, more experienced mentors and leaders and parents. They will fail, like David failed. Remember that earlier feeling I described of anxiety? When it comes to watching young people fail or mess up, I, like so many others in youth ministry, wish that I could prevent that failure.
On this day that we, as a church, take a moment to give thanks to God for the gift of young people in the church and the world, perhaps we can look across the sanctuary, or the youth room, or the dinner table, or the parking lot, the alley and the messy bedroom to see what God sees — a life and faith already gifting us with God’s image, with the holy hope of what is to come.
Gina Yeager-Buckley, Associate for Ministries with Youth, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Today’s Focus: Youth in the Church and World
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
O God, your creation is young and old. Your people are ready for your gifts at all ages and stages in their lives. Today we give thanks for the gift of young faith, young leadership and relationships with our young people. Amen.