My ebook The Virtue of Dialogue: Conversation as a Hopeful Practice of Church Communities was released last week by Patheos Press, and in it, I argue that open conversation is essential for the health and flourishing of church communities and the places they inhabit.
Over the next two weeks, I will be running a 10-part series that I am calling “Becoming Conversational” in which I offer suggestions for how churches might enrich the conversational life of their church communities. (Some of these ideas have been adapted from my earlier ebook, Growing Deeper in Our Church Communities, which is available for free download here.
#3) Engaging our Children and Youth in Conversation.
We should actively be engaging the young people in our congregations. There are many things that children, and especially teenagers, can do to help care for the church building and grounds (taking out trash, sweeping, mopping, dusting, mowing, etc.) Take one or two children along to visit the sick or the elderly. Encourage their participation in the teams or committees that do the work of the church such as coordinating missions, facilities, or worship planning.
As we observed in yesterday’s post, like everyone else in our congregation, our chidren, teens and young adults are gifts that God has given to us. It is good and important work for us to know them and help them identity and nurture their gifts, skills, and passions, and interweave them into the life and work of the church community in its broadest sense, not just the “religious activities.”
One way of engaging our children and youth in the life of our church community, is by nurturing inter-generational relationships in the family of God. One way of doing this might be to encourage older members in the congregation who do not have grandchildren (or don’t have grandchildren who live close) to “adopt” children in the congregation – especially ones who do not have grandparents nearby. I have had this experience. I grew up on the East Coast, hundreds of miles away from my grandparents in the Midwest. But two older couples in our church got to know our family, looking after us and becoming like grandparents to my sister and I. Even today, I still call these older friends “Grandpa” and “Grandma,” and fondly recall the love they poured out on our family.
There is an epidemic of young adults leaving the churches in which they grew up, many of whom leave the church altogether, and in many ways this exodus makes sense because these young people were never made to feel a part of these churches. I’m hopeful that by engaging the children and youth of our churches, we can be hospitable communities where young people feel they belong and don’t feel they need to run away as fast as possible.
Tomorrow: #4 Engaging our Neighbors more Intentionally.
Yesterday: #2 Leveraging the Skills of All Our Members.