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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Invited into their lives

I have the joy of working with youth and getting to know them pretty well. I get to know about their lives and what they have going on. These kids are busy. Busier than I ever remember being. They all have things like soccer, track, basketball, baseball, hockey, jobs, academics, bands, choirs, robotics, dance, Scouts, camp counselors, clubs. The list could go on and on. These are great opportunities for our young people, and I am so proud of them. It's touching to get invited into their lives.

Recently a senior high youth invited me to an open house (via a text message, of course) to see his pride and joy: a robot he and a large team of his peers had designed and built. When I showed up his parents asked with surprise, "What are you doing here?" I responded with a smile, "I was invited." I was honored that the invitation had truly come from the youth and not his parents.

As I listened to the presenter speak about the schedule for an upcoming competition, I was shocked to learn they had to fight to reschedule for a weekend other than Easter. The youth's mom noticed my reaction and said, "Welcome to my world."

I must admit that I get frustrated when it seems like youth commit themselves to everything but the church, youth group or Sunday school. I'm quick to point out that these other activities would be the first to cut you from the team or group if you miss a practice, game or competition. And these organizations seem to have little regard for church life. I've found myself more times than once pondering, "How do I compete with these organizations?"

After attending the open house, I was reminded that I don't have to compete. I was hired to be a director of youth and family at the church, not an activities director or program coordinator. While sometimes my job calls for these things, my true mission is to build up, develop and serve the faith of our young people.

Faith, and certainly not God, doesn't need to compete with youths' other activities. Instead, faith needs to be infused into their very core, so when they do these activities they shine with the light of Christ, leading others to the way of Jesus. I'm not really here to teach youth to be "good kids" (most of them already are) or to have Christian morals (again, most of them already have them). Instead, my job is to be in partnership with parents to pass on a vibrant, deep and life changing faith.

I'm blessed to be in the thick of that, and I need to remember my calling is much greater than winning the championship, the competition, building the best team or training kids how to behave. Instead, it's allowing the Spirit to work through me, through each of you, to encourage a lifelong relationship with our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Amen and thanks be to God! 


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