November 27, 2013
The proverb “it takes a village to raise a child” was evident in the church hall Sunday afternoon where a young man received the highest rank in Boy Scouts…the Eagle. The room was filled with family and friends, teachers, fellow scouts, scout leaders, politicians, neighbors, business owners, community partners, church members and pastors past and present. It was a grand celebration of the hard work and dedication of this youth, as well as the support system that guided him to this goal.
I was struck by the proportion of people in the room…even though the event took place in a church basement, members of the host church were greatly outnumbered. That isn’t a criticism of the congregation…for certainly they played a major role in this young man’s life, giving him a place to grow in faith and to use his God-given gifts in service. It is rather an observation about the great many people who do have a role to play in our young people’s lives, how many people influence each one of us every day…and I wonder how many young people also have a church home, a community of faith that is part of that circle of care?
There are lots of opportunities to be involved in a child’s life…opportunities that can be easily missed if we are not intentional about reaching out. I know a bit about this particular Eagle Scout. When he was searching for a project, his pastor provided him several options connected to the church’s own mission. The project brought several unchurched scouts and their families into the church building. The award ceremony held in the church hall opened the doors of the church to even more neighbors. The project itself enhanced a mission that will continue to serve still more members of the larger community. Other scouts with no church home went to that church looking for projects of their own. The scout leaders, recognizing that not all the scouts had parental support to assist them with projects, or even transportation, engaged the congregation in sponsoring individual scouts with rides and other support. You don’t have to charter a scout troop to get involved in a young person’s life. This particular Eagle Scout was from a troop that met in a nearby town. There are plenty of kids looking for people to shepherd them and guide through life, and engage them in meaningful ways to contribute to the community in which they live.
Perhaps God is calling you to begin such a relationship with a young person near you. Consider inviting young people, scouts, boys and girls clubs, foster kids, local schools, etc. to join you in mission. Offer your building and projects to local school groups and students looking for community service. Seek out schools looking for projects that you can help with…from reading books to tutoring, to providing after school care and recreational programs. Share your space with music teachers looking for a place to provide private and group lessons (most church pianos are played less than an hour a week!). Mentor a young person in your own congregation (especially if you don’t have an organized youth group). Use the gifts that are in your church to connect with the needs of young people and their families in your community.
Not every child will be able to fill a church hall with people who have shaped their lives…but every child deserves love and attention and support. May we as the church together do all we can to make a difference in raising the children in our midst.
Connected in Christ,
P.S. Don’t forget Giving Tuesday next week…the best day to support the missions you love, and double the size of your gift. Read here for more information.