I am in a unique position in our congregation, because I’ve technically aged out of youth group, but I’m still a few years behind most of the adults. On Thursday nights I go to youth, On Sunday mornings I go to the young adult Sunday school class. I feel like I have one foot in the adult world and one foot still in youth territory, and lately I’ve started to feel like I’m losing my balance. I’ve done lots of questioning and praying, and over and over again, I’ve sensed God telling me to stay with the youth. It’s been a long journey understanding exactly what “Staying with the youth” looks like, but as I began to write this, God suddenly revealed a clear answer. Youth group was the foundation of my faith, and without it, I would not be standing here today. It’s like the story in Matthew Chapter 7, in which Jesus tells of two builders who chose different foundations.
24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
For me, the foundation began when my family had just started attending Salem, and two young men began inviting me to youth group. Daniel and Scott were so kind and genuine with their invitations, and I’m forever thankful to them for leading me to this group that I have grown to love so fiercely. More bricks were added as several youth leaders came and went, each teaching me new things. The foundation really started to take shape when a new youth leader arrived, and through consistency and dedication, showed me the great things that happen when someone makes the conscious choice to truly “stay with the youth.”
I’ve been asking myself; In this season of “staying with the youth”, have I done all I can to help them build a strong foundation? When they look at me, do they see someone who has faith that goes beyond just talk? Or have I become so concerned with decorating the house of my faith with pretty curtains and bright paint colors that I have neglected the foundation that holds it up?
Two weeks ago, as we were in the process of planning youth Sunday, we suddenly realized that the date we had designated would be the day after prom. After a very brief discussion in which they were asked if this would be a problem, one of them spoke up and said “It’s ok, I’ll just sleep later, after church.” The others did not hesitate to agree, and moving youth Sunday to a “more convenient” week was never even discussed.
True, in the grand scheme of things, this may seem like a small instance. But in that moment, they were faced with a significant choice; They could set aside today to recover from the events of yesterday, and back out of their commitment to lead service. Or, they could commit to getting up, showing up, and serving God, even though they will be tired. The winds of earthly commitments blew and beat on their houses, and those houses did not fall, because they are being founded on the rock.
In this small choice, the youth were quick to put God first, and that gives me great hope that those instincts will follow through when the decisions they have to make become bigger and more difficult. Speaking for myself, I can say that they did, and even when things have felt uncertain, I’ve always had that foundation holding me up. I would not want any of these youth to neglect the foundation now, only to find out later in life that they have nothing solid to land on when the wind and rain of life comes crashing in.
In a few hours, we will have youth Sunday. If we’re being honest, it’s one of those Sundays that may be tempting to skip. Things might not run as smoothly as usual, and Pastor Meghan will not be preaching. But before you decide to forgo church today, or show up physically but not mentally, I just want you to know something. Youth group is not a pastime, a social club, or just another extracurricular activity to put on a college application. This Youth group took in the shy, awkward teenager I once was and helped her become the young woman standing before you today. A young woman who, although she still feels awkward most of the time, is starting to understand that making God a priority is more important than any insecurity I feel, in any situation.
Today, I ask you to be there for the youth, be a part of the solid foundation that they are building. Like they said, You can sleep later, after church.