I took three weeks off the summer for the first time ever. It was really nice to relax and spend time with my family. My mom came out from California to see us. We visited with my oldest daughter who mostly lives in Fairfax now, and we took a week to go to Smith Mountain Lake.
My escape from the world was to read. I got into the "Sigma Force" novels and read the first eight books over three weeks.
Then we came home and just last week, it felt like the world ended:
- We lost Afghanistan
- We lost climate change
- We seem to be losing the latest battle against COVID
And right away I was asked about the fall. When is Sunday school starting back up? What about youth group?
So, I tried to crawl into book nine.
Like a lot of parents, I just need to get to August 26 and the first day of school. About half of the elementary kids in Loudoun County have not been back inside their schools since they left on March 11, 2020. My kids did go back under the hybrid option last fall for a few weeks and then again in the spring.
Will we make it until Christmas without shutting down or classes going into quarantine? Maybe. I just want to get to Labor Day at this point. One full week. The last time they had real school on a Monday was March 9, 2020, as every Monday this past year was essentially a teacher workday.
I never thought I would consider the kids getting through a full week of school to be such a victory.
So, what about the church stuff?
The church has its own crises that Sunday school and youth group can’t fix. We lost the idea of maintaining what we thought church should look like in 1985 a long time ago.
Good thing for us that it’s not 1985. It’s also a good thing for us that we’ve read the story. Some people like to just skip to the end and declare victory. Well, I don’t find that very comforting in the moment, nor do I think that’s the point.
The discipline of regular Bible study is not only to have assurance in our personal salvation. When we’re steeped in the full narrative, not just bits and pieces of “edited for younger audiences” versions of the Bible, we see that the world ends all the time and God does a new thing, all the time.
We’re resurrection people, not maintenance people. Resurrection necessitates death.
Now, I know I create panic when I talk like this and I’m sorry for that. There are some traditions that continue to have value and will continue as long you continue to support them with your prayers, your presence, your gifts, and your service and your witness.
I am speaking of how we connect with the next generations.
Both Sunday school and youth group were developed to meet specific needs that no longer exist.
Sunday school was originally created as a ministry to the kids who worked factories during the week to educate them out of poverty. The advent of free public schools shifted the purpose of Sunday school.
Youth group was created to provide activities for teens so they would keep out of trouble in times and places when there weren’t many options. Options abound today.
Various small group ministries were created to address specific needs at different times.
It’s time to find new ways to disciple kids, youth and adults. We honor those reformers not simply carrying with what they started, but by picking up the mantle of reformation.
That’s the story of the biblical narrative and the sum of history: when the world ends a new one emerges. Resurrection is not a return to the old, it is a rebirth to the new.
It’s time to stop trying to replicate the past, meet the moment and go forward: to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
What’s the plan?
Meditate on Scripture.
Attend to the Sacraments.
Serve the poor.
The youth will get together.
The kids will get together.
Families will get together.
Just not in all the same ways they used to.