“Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”
- 1 Timothy 4:12, NRSV
“I’m convinced that many of us are Christians today because some person or group of people listened to us, saw us, received and delighted in us. This is the kind of presence our youth long for.”
- Mark Yaconelli, Contemplative Youth Ministry
Who was a mentor for you in your faith growing up? Do you resonate with what Mark Yaconelli writes? I can remember a parade of names and faces from my church growing up in Minneapolis: Mrs. Friskie and Mr. Giske (yes, those really were their names!), who taught the 4th-5th grade Sunday School Class; Mike and Jan Mattox, who led the Jr. High class and taught us camp songs while Mike played guitar; Rev. Bud Friend-Jones, who asked our Sr. High group lots of really great questions and helped us see current issues in a faith context; and Rev. Carla Bailey, who on a walk one day encouraged me to consider ministry. Then all those Sundays when other grown-ups, friends of my Mom and Dad and parents of my fellow youth, asked about me during the coffee hour, and to my bewilderment, actually seemed interested in what I had to say.
Now that I’m an adult, I realize how much the care of my elders mattered, and played a role in my faith journey. I also realize how much my presence meant to them. It is sad to me that in recent times our culture has become increasingly segregated into so many subgroups, including by age. Where in our current culture do generations regularly cross paths in a meaningful way? Maybe faith communities exist to represent this simple idea: that God gave us life to be lived in diversity, including multiple generations, so that we could enrich one another.
I know many of you care deeply about our youth —I think they know that too. I want to take it a step further with what I’m calling the Mentor Project. It’s simple: Take a moment to reflect on one of your favorite scriptures. Then send me an email letting me know what it is, and a few sentences about why it’s your favorite. The youth will compile your answers into an art project booklet that they can carry with them at school, work, wherever they go. A piece of Welcome Table Wisdom from you, their Mentors in faith.
You can email me your scriptures at firstname.lastname@example.org by March 31st. In the meantime, get ready for the youth to help lead worship on March 22nd. Thank you!