OK. These kinds of conversations really make me angry. Not really the conversations – but the stories contained in them. As you know, I travel
The young people I talk to will discuss their harried schedules filled with band practice, play rehearsals and sports games. Then, they mention that not only are their calendars filled months in advance with these activities; they are often punished if they miss a practice, game or performance. Most recently, one young man told me that his coach punishes them by having to run more if they miss a cross country practice.
This makes me really angry. Punishing a young man who wants to go to CHURCH?!?! Seriously, what are people thinking?
Fortunately, my faith tells me a little about channeling my anger at injustice. There are two things that come to mind: 1. We are called to stand up to injustice. 2. We are called to sacrifice for our faith.
I bet we can think of a few ways to resist this injustice that is taking place in the lives of teenagers. I think the simplest way to resist this injustice would be for parents and young people to go to coaches, teachers and other youth leaders and tell them that you are going to choose to attend church rather than a sports practice or game. If enough people do this, the practice and game schedules would eventually begin to change.
Before those changes occur, I’m betting that those who stand up for their faith might suffer a little bit. Jesus’ life definitely said something about suffering. Jesus stood up to powerful religious and political leaders and was crucified. Many Christians also believe that God was showing us something amazing about sacrificial love in that act. If God loves us that much, can we love God enough to run a few extra miles? Or even more profoundly, can we love God enough to give up a big tournament or game or performance in order to live our faith more fully?
In my ideal world, these kinds of choices would be easier to make. Wouldn’t it be great if ALL the adults who work with young people – coaches, teachers, pastors, scout leaders and many others – would all agree that young people need to be spiritually, emotionally, psychologically and intellectually balanced? Then they could work together to make a workable schedule that is more flexible than it currently is. Wouldn’t it be great if young people could be in the band or the football team AND be able to attend a church retreat without fear that s/he would be punished or made to feel guilty by any of the adults in their lives?
Rev. Nicole, I drive by our high school on the way to church. Most Sundays, especially in the winter, there are more cars in the high school parking lot than in our church parking lot. I call the gathering at the high school "The Church of the Holy Ball." I'm betting that a lot of those people are "missing" church in more ways than one. What if we used that gathering as a mission opportunity?
Most schools have keyboards and CD players. What if we offered worship to those who weren't out on the floor, who were waiting for the next game? Wouldn't it be fun and welcome? I wonder. Would people worship in that wildly ecumenical setting?