Ps 145 or 145:1-9
Fr. Nathan Baxter
Last Eastertide and early summer, we spent time as a congregation reading and reflecting on the book, Growing Young. It was a catalyst in our longer-range priority on connecting with Amesbury families. Last year, it provided a jumpstart for reflection and initial exploration. This spring and summer, it will provide a framework for immediate and longer-range practices.
Part of our participation in Amesbury Days later this summer is shaped by the “Growing Young” commitments to “Being good neighbors” and to “Empathizing with young people.”
The youngest member of our Vestry, seminarian Michael Mayo, provides this recap of the book. Michael writes:
Growing Young is not about surface-level change. It’s not about ideal location or nifty stuff. It’s not about having an exciting church plant, or “cool factor” leaders. Jesus focuses us on the heart (wash the inside of the cup…, where your treasure is…, out of the heart the mouth speaks…).
Similarly, “growing young” involves a collective heart commitment to better love young people in our community. Such a heart does not desire to draw young people to All Saints for our own sake, seeing them as a means of preserving the vitality of our church. Instead, that heart understands young people as vital members in our common life of following Jesus.
Here are six commitments that flow from a heart that loves young people well.
Unlocking keychain leadership
Welcoming someone in is one thing, giving them the keys shows a whole different level of trust and love. By knowing the capabilities, power, and access each of us has in the church, we can empower young people by giving them opportunities to serve and grow.
Empathizing with young people
Like anyone else, young people desire identity, belonging, and purpose. We can love young people well by seeking to understand the challenges they face as they journey through the early years of adulthood. It may be tempting to generalize about “millennials” or patronize “kids these days” instead of getting to know a young person as an individual. Instead, we should imitate Jesus, who took on our flesh. He walked in our shoes and felt our pain so that we know his love and walk after him.
Taking Jesus’s message seriously
If young people want something cool, we cannot compete with the world around us. But in the Gospel, we have living water the world cannot provide. However, we must be sure to offer the full gospel (not just the parts we like) that locates us in the larger redemptive narrative (instead of looking into disconnected stories) as we start building and participating in the kingdom of heaven (instead of just waiting for heaven later). And we must show how this Gospel engages with the deep questions and pain points we learn about as we empathize with them.
Fueling a warm community.
Authenticity, warmth, and connection trumps being hip or cool. Jesus said his family is those who do his word. A heart for young people wants to welcome them into our family of worship.
Prioritizing young people everywhere
Jesus is not content with a part of our heart. He wants to transform and be the Lord over all of it. Similarly, cultivating a heart for young people affects all of our common life together. Instead of relegating growing young to certain programs or times in a service, we can consider how to love and serve young people in all that we do.
Being good neighbors
Young people have a deep desire for justice. As the church, we have a deep call to justice. The early church attracted people not only for how they loved people inside their community but also how they loved those outside it. Who are the least of these in Amesbury, and how can we use our individual and corporate gifts to serve them?
As you read these, you may notice that our collective heart already beats in step with some of these commitments. Some commitments may require more transformation. Either way, this summer, we will get to journey with Jesus together and offer our hearts to him so that he might give us his heart for young people in our community.