I hope the readers of this blog will forgive this congregation-specific post. On Pentecost Sunday five high school students, members of the Confirmation Class, will make their profession of faith and become confirmed members of the church I serve.
All of these young people have grown up in First Presbyterian Church of Tallahassee – and it shows. Their level of commitment and their ability to articulate their Christian faith is an expression of the nurture they have been receiving since they were babes in arms. In an age when participation in the life of a congregation is no longer a priority for many families, it’s heartening to see how one congregation really does “grow” Christians.
Ours is a culture obsessed with “measurable objectives.” The FCAT is only one example of how we dehumanize children and young people, turning them into products, rather than beloved individuals chosen and cherished by God. Christian nurture is not about turning out cookie-cutter Christians who can recite creeds and catechisms and score high on standardized tests. It’s about joining the Holy Spirit in a process of growth toward the Triune God.
To use Paul’s words, Christian education is about equipping the saints “. . . for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ (Eph. 4:12-13).
I admit that I can become discouraged by the cultural shifts away from all things having to do with “organized religion.” Instead of swimming against the stream, Christian parents seem to be allowing their households to be swept along by the current as soccer tournaments supersede worship, cheerleading practice replaces youth group, and discipleship ceases to be the first priority.
The congregation I serve doesn’t treat young people as second-class Christians. We don’t assume the youth group will always do the “grunt work” that adults find burdensome. We don’t have “Youth Sunday” when young people take leadership in worship for a single Sunday in the year, and we don’t assume that they are too young to be involved in many kinds of mission. You never hear it said around here that “Youth are the future of the church.” They are the present members of Christ’s body, the church.
If you had been a fly on the wall these past few weeks as the Confirmation Class has been meeting, you would have been have been encouraged. I certainly am. I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that we do some things well at First Church – and one of them is to bring up the children in “the nurture and admonition of the Lord” – provided, of course, their parents give us the opportunity.
It all comes down to choices. The most important choice is the one God made to love us before any of us could love God back.