February 15, 2019
Years ago, one of my nephews, who was at the time still in high school, invited me to come to join him for Sunday services at a Baptist church he'd been attending. Two things about that experience have stayed with me. (There's a whole separate story I might tell one day about why he was attending a Baptist church, but for now, let's just say "girlfriend.") After the worship service, I sat in on the Bible study my nephew attended. The first thing that stayed with me from that morning was something the preacher said during his sermon. He said our tendency as Christians is to "make sense of the Bible in light of our lives." But, he said, the better approach is just the opposite: "to make sense of our lives in light of the Bible."
This photo is from the fantastic movie The Shawshank Redemption. I never noticed until just now that the page is open to the Exodus story! "Salvation lies within." Brilliant. The Bible not only helps us make sense of our lives, it points to the "way out" of whatever enslaves us, at any given time. That's why I'm so excited that one of our goals for 2019 is to introduce more Bible studies and other adult Christian formation and education experiences, as we learn, together, to make sense of our lives in light of the Good News. The second thing that stayed with me from that visit is that the class my nephew attended was for 10th graders. And only 10th graders. There was one combined classroom for all the elementary-age children, and there were separate classrooms for 6th graders, 7th graders, 8th graders, 9th graders, 10th graders, 11th graders, and seniors. I'd never seen that before in any Episcopal Church. In fact, that approach -- combining elementary school kids but treating each grade in middle and high school as their own, separate classes with their own, separate needs and learning styles -- is pretty much the opposite of what we see in most Episcopal churches. Part of the reason is demographics: there's simply many more elementary-age kids than middle and high school kids. But that begs the question: WHY? It's not as if those kids are not still around after elementary school. (Or more accurately, is IS the case they're not around...around on Sunday morning!) But again, why? Why do most Episcopal churches assume attrition from Sunday morning Christian formation as kids get older? If anything, a stronger argument can made for separate classes for older kids than for younger ones: as anyone who has raised teenagers knows, there's as much a difference between an 7th grader and an 11th grader as there is between a water-dwelling tadpole and an air-breathing frog (or, if you prefer, between a chrysalis, caterpillar, and adult butterfly). That vision -- that investment in all ages, cradle to grave -- has always stayed with me. And I'm happy to say that as of mid-2018, we at The Falls Church Episcopal are not making the "attrition assumption" -- and that is part of the reason I'm so excited that we've invested heavily in not only a full-time Director of Children's and Family Ministries, but a full-time Director of Youth Ministries. As the huge number of young children in our parish metamorpihize into young adults, we'll be ready to help them "grow into the full stature of Christ." See you Sunday,