I was sitting the other day in the fellowship hall. It was the middle of the week. There were some young children, maybe part of a preschool family, who were running around the room. Three of these, who were preschool-aged, were running around in circles, more-or-less keeping up with each other. They were laughing and talking with each other, and the joy in their play was (to me) contagious. There was a fourth young child, a bit younger than the others. The three were all old enough to run with confidence. Their younger playmate, though, was old enough to be steady on his feet walking, but hadn’t figured out how to run much faster than he walked quite yet.
As they played, I saw the one chasing after the three. He was trying to run like they were, laughing like they were, jumping when they jumped, playing the game they played. I remember my own children doing the same thing. Young children look up to, and imitate, the older children ~ it’s how we all learn how to act in our society. And that day in the fellowship hall, the youngest one had three good examples to emulate.
Young people look to their elders to learn how to deal with the world. Once they get to be teenagers, they won’t always admit it, but young people look to their elders to learn how to make it in life. We learn by paying attention to those who we spend time around ~ we learn how to eat, how to manage time and money, how to treat people we love and how to treat people who are different.
Young people learn these things whether or not we’re trying to teach them. The three kids knew the fourth was there, but they weren’t trying to teach him the game. They were doing what they were doing with very little regard to the other child. But despite their inattention to him, he was paying close attention.
The young people at Holy Love pay attention to you. They pay attention to how you live your faith. They pay attention to how we welcome and treat strangers and those who are different from us. They pay attention when we try to teach them, and when we have no reason to notice them. They pay attention when it looks like they’re completely engaged with something else.
The other day I was in a large room having a conversation with an adult. Across the way was an elementary school aged young person. The student had earphones plugged in while reading a book with great interest, turning pages regularly as she made her way through the text. It wasn’t long before she offered her perspective. Surprisingly, her insight wasn’t on our clothing, our choice of cell phone, or even the book she was reading. The insight she offered was directly related to the topic of our conversation, and she offered a perspective we hadn’t yet thought of or brought up. This surprised us both, because by all appearances she was completely checked-out and in her own world. They pay attention, they emulate what we do, and they know when we take them seriously.
This summer, you will have the opportunity to share your faith intentionally with young people as our congregation gathers on a few summer Wednesday evenings for some faith-building activities. And when you show up, I can almost guarantee that not only will your own faith grow, but you’ll be surprised by the faith that God has given to the young people who are part of our congregation.
For what it's worth.