Longing For Spring: Protestant Models of Intentional Community

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Isaiah 61:1-11

This week I have had the incredible privilege to attend the Faith Forward Conference in Chicago.

Tangent – someone this week wanted to tell Illinois that it is Spring…this Florida girl wanted to tell Illinois that it is Summer!

Faith Forward focuses on re-imagining children and youth ministry through supporting efforts to reclaim these age-segmented and age-sequestered ministries back into the entire Body of Christ. Studies continue to show that our children and youth learn how to do this thing called faith in this thing called life by practicing it alongside loved ones and ones that love them in the same space. This does not mean that we need to abandon all age-level ministries; it does mean that the church needs to be intentional in crafting faith interactions and experiences that are inclusive of and will resonate with all God’s children, whether they are learning or teaching or learning through teaching.

Faith Forward believes this methodology of intentional teaching, learning, and faithing communities will lead to the renewal of the church. I believe this, too. This conference has so affirmed the work TUMC has begun and will continue through the help of our children and youth ministries to further integrate our children and youth into the life of the church through teaching, service, community, and prayer. And let’s face it, we all smile a bit brighter when we see children and youth in worshipping, serving, and praying with us – not because they are cute or because they say the darnedest things. We smile brighter because in our children and youth we see the church continuing.

Again and again we hear “children are the future of the church”. Wrong folks. Children are the present. How can we help them explore and craft and articulate their future with Christ? By being with them. By inviting them to be with us. By modeling the faith we love. By answering honestly the questions they ask – even if the answer is “I don’t know.” And if the answer is “I don’t know,” why not include with it, “but let’s find the answer together.”

This is the good news, friends. God has called us – all of us – young, old, folks of every hue, folks of every ability, folks of every education level, folks of every life experience, folks who wear stilettos, folks who wear flats, and folks who smile or even eye roll when someone else wears stilettos. Like Isaiah we are called “to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of the vengeance of God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion – to give them a garland instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit” (Isa 61:1-3). By attending to this work, we will be renewed, our youth “will be renewed like the eagles,” and our church will be renewed.

I am committed to moving our faith forward. Not just for the sake of the future, but for the sake of the present.

Prayer: “O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise, the glories of my God and King, the triumphs of his grace! My gracious Master and my God assist me to proclaim and spread through all the earth abroad the honors of thy name. He speaks; and, listening to his voice, new life the dead receive, the mournful broken hearts rejoice. The humble poor believe.”* Amen.

*”O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 57.