I was born into a dying church.
My parents and grandparents were born into a wider church in the United States that was growing and thriving, but for as long as I can remember the mainline church in this country has been dying.
A story that always helps me frame this reality is found in Mark 5: 21-43.
In this passage, a man – Jairus – tells Jesus that his daughter is dying and Jesus goes with him to his house. On the way, a member of Jairus’s house comes and tells Jesus and Jairus that his daughter has died.
Jesus says. “Do not be afraid, just believe.”
When Jesus got to the place where the little girl was, he insisted that the child was “not dead, but asleep”. Jesus took her by the hand and said “Little girl, get up!”.
And she did.
I wonder if Jesus might say the same about our church right now. I wonder if he would say that, though dying, we are not dead – but asleep.
It seems poignant that the character in the story who is raised from the dead is a little girl. Her youth and gender made her pretty voiceless in society, but Jesus works through her to perform one of his greatest miracles. Jesus shows us that her story is important.
I don’t for a minute believe that it’s coincidence.
It’s almost as if God knew we’d need the stories and voices of young people to upend the power structures and assumptions of the world. It’s almost as if the stories of the young are presented over and over in the Bible because God knew we’d need them to discover the truth about ourselves and God and the world around us.
It’s as if God knew young people can help the church “get up”.
That’s why I’m excited about this blog.
The Young Adults of this church have stories to tell. The Young Adults of the ELCA have stories about this church – of love and lament, of death and resurrection. We have stories about God – of knowing and doubt. We have stories about ourselves – of discovery and rejection and fervent hope.
We have stories of faith.
Historically, the voices of young people have been quashed by the power of institutions and folks who are “more established” and who “know better”, but I hope and believe that the ELCA, like Jesus, believes that the Spirit of God shows up just as fully in the young as the not-so-young.
So this blog will be a place that young people can share their stories. A place where they can help the church wake up. I hope that these stories help equip young adult groups and not-so-young adult groups with material for further theological reflection, conversation, and prayer.
Each post will include a story from a Young Adult, a bible passage, and some reflection questions or links to more educational materials.
Young people associated with the ELCA today found their way into a church in decline. They have never seen an institutional church that was growing, thriving, and fearless.
But it was also Jesus who said in John 20:29, “Because you have seen, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
So many Young Adults believe in the ministry of this church in all its fullness, even if they have never seen it. They believe in a radical God who recognizes the church isn’t dead, but a God who also won’t leave us asleep.
Join Young Adult Ministries in this blog and on Facebook, twitter, and Instagram @ELCAYoungAdults to hear God speak new life through the stories of young people.
Come hear the stories of young adults who, with Jesus, are calling us – the church – to “get up”.
Mark 5: 21 – 43
- Where have you seen death and new life in your community? Ministry context? In your own life?
- What are some stories of young people in the Bible that have inspired you? What is meaningful about them? What about stories of young people in your life or the wider world?
- What do you hear God saying in the Bible about the contribution of young people to ministry?
- What do you hear God saying about your contribution to God’s family and church?
- In what ways so you think the church needs to “get up”? How have you vocalized / acted on that? How have your actions been met by others in the church or the world around you?
Savanna is Program Director for ELCA Young Adult Ministries at the ELCA Churchwide Office in Chicago, IL. She has given workshops and presentations around the country to ELCA and ecumenical groups about Young Adult culture and empowerment in the church. She recently spoke at the 2018 ELCA Youth Gathering in Houston, TX. She is passionate about helping young people seek the Divine in themselves and pushing the church to equip, amplify, and respect the voices of young leaders. She loves banana pudding, the Clemson tigers, and memorizing poems.