Big questions about church, God, and the Very Real Things happening in the world.
Entry points into conversation about the Very Real Things happening in the world.
Invitation into deeper dialogue and action related to the Very Real Things happening in the world.
Last night was pretty special. It was the first weekly high school youth group meeting at Redeemer, and we met at Venture North Bike & Coffee Shop next door to the church. Basic icebreakers eventually led into an incredible conversation about these young people’s experiences of systemic brokenness and community wellness; the Very Real Things happening in the world. And then we brainstormed about a simple question, “what are the big questions you have about the church, about the bible, or about God?”
I’m going to list them in a second here, but I first want to point out and lift up an observation Rachel had about where the brainstorm took us: what began as a prompt asking for questions about church, the bible, and about God led quickly into questions about community and how we engage in it. Color me impressed. This congregation has embraced the simple fact that the words we use matter, which has created a paradigm about church that says that our entire community is our congregation, and that God is actively moving and shaking and laughing and wailing and wailing and wailing with us.
So here’s the list… potentially 11 weeks of youth group conversation, dreamed up in about 20 minutes together:
- What are the basics of the bible? What does a newcomer need to know about the bible?
- Why does religion exist? Do we need it?
- What are the differences between us and other close religious “relatives?” Can we bring in others to have interfaith conversations with them?
- Can we create a time and space for us and our friends to share real-life, vulnerable stories?
- What do we as Lutheran Christians have to say about homosexuality? Where does the idea that being gay is wrong come from?
- Why do bad things happen? Where’s God in that? Does God punish and/or abandon us?
- Can we talk about how/why the church has participated more in separating people than bringing them together sometimes?
- How does/can the church bring people together who are of different races, genders, ages, sexual and gender identities?
- What is our role in the church? How do we connect to/act as the church even when we aren’t sitting inside a sanctuary?
- Racism causes mental illness. How do we find wellness in faith communities?
- Shootings in churches… tragedies in our world. Inequality in treatment of white/black people by police officers.
And so, we decided that next week’s big question of conversation will be something along the lines of: “Where is God in the midst of a racist society?”
As a stereotypically white guy youth director, these conversations about the Very Real Things happening in the world will probably be difficult. But I’m so eager to carve out the space for them to happen. I’m nervous that I’ll say the wrong thing or make assumptions, and so I’m trying to own the fact that I don’t know what I don’t know, and am trying to be open to learn through listening and listening and listening. But I’m also hoping and praying that the result of this ongoing youth group will be that we have authentic relationships, vulnerable storytelling, mutual support, and new learning about God and God’s action in our world.
I keep reminding myself: young people are talking about this in school and in parks and at camps and on social media and through texts. The church has something to say about all this, too.
We need to find the courage to listen with love and empathy, we need to think beyond our assumptions and current knowledge, we need to acknowledge our failure to say or do anything about Very Real Things happening in the world, and then we need to speak out and act— prophetically and emphatically– a powerful message of a God who walks the neighborhood, and who didn’t suffer, die, and resurrect for the sake of some more than others.
Here we go.