This Sunday, the 11:00 Sanctuary Service will be led by 10 high school seniors. The group includes 5 musicians, 2 (almost) Eagle Scouts, computer whizzes, science geeks, animal advocates, basketball players, chess champions, and varsity athletes. Every single one of them went to Camp Barnabas or High School Mission Trip this summer, and they have, between the 10 of them, logged over 750 hours of service in the past 2 months, just with this church.
All of that is to say, these kids aren’t messing around. These are teenagers that are driving themselves (sometimes up to 40 miles) to church, logging triple-digit service hours, playing varsity sports and musical instruments, and applying to colleges all over the county.
These are teenagers that are pretty adequately “checking all the boxes.” Good grades? Check. Stayed out of trouble? Check. Test scores? Check. Extra-curricular involvement? Check. Service hours? Double Check.
And you know what? They’re kind of over it.
This Sunday, you’ll hear Katie Stewart, Paschal High School senior, talk about being at a prospective student tour of a university and them going through all the ways they filter through applications, how they look for all the boxes that need to be checked to make it to such-and-such stage. You’ll hear her talking about how it got her wondering about where the other boxes were.
Boxes like, “Were you kind?” or “Were you welcoming?” or “Were you generous?”
Where was there room for someone to ask if they were good, if they were nice to new kids, if they put others before themselves? In all of the pressure to perform, to make themselves marketable to all of those who evaluate them according to a strict set of weights and measures, never knowing who they really were, Katie reflected on feeling a little boxed in.
Our teenagers are smart and competent and will do a lovely job this weekend leading this Youth Sunday, performing their roles as liturgists, musicians, and speakers. But they are also compassionate, and honest, warm, funny, loving, and fiery. They care deeply for each other, for this church, for their communities.
This Sunday, for Youth Sunday, I hope to give them enough space that you can see how much more they are than the boxes they check, the schools they get into, and the scholarships they will inevitably receive. These are kids that are good. Not don’t-get-in-trouble good, but actively-seek-justice-and-mercy good.
And if you have teenagers in your life, I encourage you to look for those less-obvious boxes their checking, the ones like Katie mentioned. I encourage you to notice not just what they can do, but who they are, the person that God is shaping them in to.
For the rest of us, I invite all of you to join us for the 11:00 am Sanctuary Service to hear these 10 seniors (plus youth choir and youth praise band, with an assist from our lovely organist Peggy, and a few youth staff) lead and remind us of those checkboxes that really matter, and how we can grow into the people that God is calling us to be.
See you Sunday,
Director of Youth Ministries