by Josh Hosler, Associate for Christian Formation
for The Collect, a publication of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Medina, WA
When I talk about my vision for the St. Thomas youth groups, sometimes I feel like a bit of a hypocrite. The whole idea is to offer a place for youth to get away from the mad rush. But first, I have to add to the mad rush with my own dates and times!
And sometimes I feel pushy with my incessant invitations to retreats, beach parties, hikes, special church services, etc. Regardless of the type of event, the idea is to build community in a space where God’s voice just might come through. And building community takes time and commitment—not just from me, but also from those who participate.
I grew up in a small tourist town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. There were no soccer leagues, no summer baseball teams, no Girl Scout camps, no competitive cheerleading squads, no Young Life events, and no mission trips. There was one woman in town who taught piano. My brother Seth and I were the only two kids in the Episcopal Church, so we took turns as the lone acolyte. In the summertime, there was absolutely nothing to do.
For a while, I fell in with an Assemblies of God youth group. I am forever grateful to these wonderful friends for helping me clarify what I do and don’t believe: our theologies overlapped very little. But I had an amazing time! I was able to be myself there, even when everyone else seemed to believe very different things. I didn’t need just the right group—I only needed a faith-filled group. God took care of the rest.
That’s my hope for the youth of St. Thomas. In a city with so many excellent opportunities, we spend an inordinate amount of energy trying to get our kids into just the right sport, just the right musical group, and eventually, just the right college or university. We ourselves might spend decades trying to find just the right church! But does it exist?
Eventually, time runs short. Kids are only kids for a little while. What did they commit themselves to? What did they stick with through thick and thin? Lessons learned from not quite fitting in may be far more valuable than the energy we spend jumping from one opportunity to the next in a quest for perfection. Becoming a pivotal part of a community that sometimes rubs you the wrong way is far holier than maintaining a safe, marginal connection.
Slow down. Sit at Jesus’ feet for a while. Let that Martha energy go, and be Mary. Commit your child to a faith-filled group. Commit yourself to a community of faith, whether or not it’s St. Thomas. Choose a place to bloom. If you don’t, you may never slow down long enough to hear God’s call to you.