*** I wrote this for my church's newsletter. Fit it to your context as you see fit.
As a student, my life was consumed by the written word. I was reading for classes, writing notes on lectures, and researching for papers which always felt too long. Since graduation, I can’t recall writing anything more than a few sentences. So, today as you read a few quotes and a few of my thoughts, give me grace. Let’s start with the first quote.
“There’s a world of difference between insisting on someone’s doing something and establishing an atmosphere in which that person can grow into wanting to do it.”
Mister Rogers is a personal role model. I remember watching his show and feeling a calmness about the world. As I grew, I began looking into his life and found that he was a man of Faith. His focus was on children and their development. Still, many of his quotes help me understand how to relate to the world even now.
As for this quote, I begin to think about the students of our church and their faith. To insist a student come to church, participate in youth group, or go on a mission trip isn’t the goal. Instead, the goal is to create an atmosphere that encourages a student to participate. The goal is to help the student find their own relationship with God. Youth group, a church community, and other friends help achieve this goal, but the real work starts at home. So, parents, this is your encouragement and reminder that you are the ones making disciples. You are the ones creating a place where your kids can ask questions, learn about God, and find the desire to have a relationship with God. This relationship is both now and when they eventually create their own homes.
When I was a kid, I thought being a parent meant knowing what to say and how to say it. But I have no idea what to say or how to say it. All I can do is shut up and listen. Otherwise, you miss all the good stuff.
John Green is often known for his young adult writing. Many may not know that he was on a path to being an Anglican priest. John spent time as a student chaplain in a children’s hospital. While being a chaplain, he began to struggle with the grief he witnessed. Eventually, he changed careers. Despite the change, I still see the Faith, reflection, and even the questioning of John as a source of encouragement.
In this quote, John gives us an understanding of how we should be viewing discipleship. We often think we have to have every answer. The truth is we can’t know everything. We can hope to know more than we once did, but there is always more to learn. We also seem to need to fill silences with words. Often those words are empty and an excuse to make ourselves feel like we did something. The best thing we can do with our students (anyone really) is to listen. What is the person saying, what do they need, how do they struggle? I have found that listening to the students has given me a greater understanding of my own faith.
What is my point in all of this? Well, first is that our students are seeking. Some are questioning faith and wondering what the point of religion is, some wonder what the future holds and where God is leading them, and others are just here because they are told to be. Yet, despite the varied reasons, we still have students in our church. God is drawing himself to each one of them regardless of the reason they show up. We can help facilitate that drawing by first realizing that an older generation is needed to disciple a younger one. Parents and children, the old-timers and the newborns, everyone needs a person that will walk with them in their faith. The second is that we can simply listen. We don’t always need to hold the answers (especially when the questions are deep). Last is that these relationships of listening and discipleship are where we can continue to be formed, shaped, and drawn to the God who loves us.