Last weekend Drew and I chaperoned our 3rd, 4th and 5th Graders on their first retreat. We joined two other churches at Agape Camp & Conference Center south of Fuquay-Varina for a BYG – Build a Youth Group retreat. The theme of the weekend was Let Your Light Shine, taken from Matthew 5:16. We sang; we laughed; we hiked; we ate pizza and roasted marshmallows. We had a blast. Several moments stand out, but there is one in particular that I wanted to share in this week’s blog.
It happened during Saturday’s Bible study. I was with about seven fifth grade girls and their counselor, Rachel. She led a wonderful time of reflection on what it means to shine God’s light into the world. We talked about West Raleigh’s participation in Family Promise and Habitat for Humanity. We talked about standing with friends who are being bullied. Then, somehow the conversation turned toward telling people about Jesus. This one is a little bit trickier, the young people said. Two of the girls have Jewish grandfathers. Another talked about one of her best friends whose family is active in a local Buddhist temple. Yet another had a close friend whose family is atheist – they don’t believe in God at all even though they know about Jesus, she said. Rachel and I nodded, affirming their experience and their instinct that somehow it was okay for them to hold to their belief in Jesus, while also respecting the differing beliefs of those who they love and value.
As we walked to the next event, Rachel and I hung back. Wow, I said. I don’t know about you, but that is not a conversation that I was having in the 5th Grade. She agreed. The world is changing, rapidly. Every generation challenges the church to stay relevant. In some ways this generation is no different. Yet, perhaps, the world is. The church no longer has a monopoly on religion in America. I believe that in sharing the religious landscape we will learn a lot about who we are and what we believe, and we will be led into deeper relationships with the other. What I learned from my daughter’s generation this weekend is that a new normal is coming. In fact, it may already be here, and in order for the church to be relevant, we have to be part of the conversation.