“I am so sorry all of this has happened to you, but we are here because we believe God cares.” I won’t forget those words. This was solemn sentiment spoken by a fourteen year-old girl to a woman with little hope on a hot summer day in the Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee. The girl, whose name I have long forgot, was the part of a youth group mission trip to the mountains in which I was serving with a non-profit organization committed to rebuilding and repairing houses for the rural poor. The woman this group was helping had just lost her job, her son in a custody battle, and to add insult to injury, the backside of her house when a tree had recently fallen. Things were bleak, but a group from Indiana had come to help make her house livable again.
I have worked with many youth and young adults over the years and time and time again I have been amazed by the wisdom youth demonstrate. Theology is most exciting when it is evidenced in the life of a community. The fourteen-year old girl spoke from her heart that day, but in so doing she expressed a deeply theological view of the world. Academics have often labeled the sentiment she was straining to convey as missio Dei—the conviction that God is at work in the world. In the midst of brokenness and pain, Christians assert their hope on the basis of God’s self-giving love for the world. This love was most perfectly demonstrated in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. This love regularly breaks into the world in acts of love and justice. “I am so sorry all of this has happened to you, but we are here because we believe God cares.” These words are deeply theological.
The church often does not know what to do with its young people. Quarantined to youth rooms and special Sundays in the middle of low-attendance summers, we miss too often miss experiences like the one I was privileged to witness on that summer day. Good teachers know the pattern: tell, show, let. Teach the theological truths of the Christian faith as plainly and thoroughly as possible; demonstrate these beliefs in real-time and in real-life; trust the Holy Spirit to guide and direct youth into places others did not think they would explore. Church leaders must fight for opportunities for youth to articulate and demonstrate our theological convictions. Youth must be encouraged to test and train their theological voice. God is at work in the world! May we entrust youth to the leading of the Triune God. May we wait expectantly for unbelievable contributions.
by Lucas Endicott
Director of Campus Ministry
Central Methodist University,
Loving God, Loving Neighbor