Learn from the faithful witness of teenagers

As a pastor, I sometimes hear comments about how the youth of today are “careless” or “selfish” in their attitudes toward others, the church, or even God. Perhaps you have heard similar remarks. I have to admit that my patience often grows thin when I hear such commentary.

Recently, I spent a week at camp with 15 Confirmation youth from Bread of Life Lutheran Church in Minot. We had a fantastic week meeting new friends, singing songs around the campfire, worshipping together and growing in our faith. I can tell you that these kids are anything but careless or selfish, and I don’t think it’s only because they have been raised in the faith, though I’m certain this plays a significant role in it. I witnessed youth who are thoughtful, compassionate and articulate. Young people who care deeply about others and creation, and who are curious beyond our adult imaginations.

One night we had “Ask a Clergy” rotations, where the campers were invited to ask pastors questions they had on a given topic. My topic was death, dying and resurrection.

Some of the questions I received:

What about those who doubt their faith? Do they still have eternal life?

What happens when someone wasn’t introduced to religion before they die?

What if a baby dies before being baptized?

These are thoughtful reflections from attentive young people who are asking important questions of God and their faith. These teenagers are far from careless.

But perhaps the most striking image from my week at camp was watching 70-plus junior high kids minister to 30-plus adults with mental disabilities. The “Voyager” campers were at Camp Metigoshe the same time we were. “Voyager” campers are adults varying in age and disability who come to camp for four days every summer to experience the great outdoors, worship and community with each other.

I watched as the “cool kids” walked hand in hand with Dale, as the “jock” taught Mark to throw a football, and the “gamer” pushed Susan up and down the dirt path in her wheelchair, singing songs as they journeyed. I saw youth putting others before themselves. These teenagers are far from selfish.

Our young people are not the church of tomorrow; they are the church today right here and right now. We have much to learn from their acts of love and grace, from their kindness and generosity, and from their Christ-like hearts. Yes, at times some are careless and selfish, but then again they are no different than the rest of us.

Let us learn from their curiosity and open our eyes to the many gifts and the faithful witness they share in the kingdom of God.

The Rev. Taryn Montgomery is pastor of Bread of Life Lutheran Church in Minot