By John Stoltzfus, Conference Youth Minister
I wonder if the Biblical story of Samuel and Eli provides a glimpse of the need for the intergenerational witness of the church community. In Eli, we have the elder who knows that God has spoken in the past and holds the treasured words of response when God does speak. In Samuel, we have the young whose ears are open to the new words of God and can speak them courageously. Samuel needed Eli and Eli needed Samuel. In their relationship a door was opened to hear and understand the voice of God more clearly.
On Friday, March 16, close to 150 youth and adults representing Conference churches from Allentown to Philadelphia and in between, came together. They gathered together in worship and fun for the annual Junior High Late Night Blast. They played intense games of dodgeball, soccer, bubble soccer and the ever popular gaga pit.
During worship, Dan Occhiogrosso shared a message through story and basketball about how God is calling each of us to offer our gifts and whole selves in service to God. Everyone was in rapt attention as he shared his story of committing his life to God while demonstrating this through some crazy basketball dribbling skills.
Recognizing that they have something to offer the church, our youth were given the opportunity to write responses to three questions throughout the evening:
- What is awesome about your church?
- If you were a pastor, how would you encourage teenagers to grow in faith?
- What change do you hope to see in the church in the next 10 years?
Here are a sampling of their responses:
My church is awesome because … we have people from all over the world; everyone is supportive and loving; we welcome all people, care for them and make them feel at home; we are Christ’s hands and feet; we stay together even though we face obstacles.
If I was pastor … I would create more ministry gatherings besides Sunday mornings; I would encourage them to show love through their actions, meet new people and share God’s love; I would encourage teens to do big things in the community to show God’s love; I would make sure that everyone’s voice is heard.
In ten years I hope my church … becomes more multicultural; grows more followers that love Jesus; goes out into areas that need God’s love and healing; has more children and teens involved.
Are we listening to the Samuels in our midst? Are we open to listening? How are we listening to and investing in the next generation? What might they have to say about how God is moving the church into the future?