The. Church. Is. Not. Dying.
On Monday night I sat and beamed with pride as our confirmands made their public professions of faith and were accepted into full membership of NorthPark Presbyterian Church. It was a big deal. For one, they were nervous. (And who wouldn’t be? Public speaking is scary, especially about something as personal as faith.) But one by one, each of them stood up, took a deep breath, and shared the conclusions they’ve drawn on many theological matters.
Here’s why this is a big deal:
1. Confirmation Class is not required at NorthPark to join the church.
2. Joining the church is not required to complete the confirmation class.
The two are not only separate, but they’re both huge commitments to undertake. So, not only did 11 of our young people decide they wanted to be voting and contributing members of our congregation, they were willing to give up 3 months of their lives to study theology. Not a lot of teenagers voluntarily study theology. And our confirmation class is pretty intense.
This is good news, because as I’m sure you know, there are constantly articles and studies that offer nothing but doom and gloom about the church. “Millennials have stopped attending,” or “Young people only want entertainment not substance in their worship.” I’ve even seen one well-meaning blog about “Why youth are killing the church.”
Now hear this: The. Church. Is. Not. Dying.
But it is definitely looking different. Your young people CARE about the teachings of Jesus. They are interested in what that means for their individual lives and for issues of justice in the world. They care about atonement theory. I’m not exaggerating – go ask one of our confirmands about which doctrine of atonement they feel best describes their faith. They are interested in the socio-political context of the Bible and they love, LOVE, to have philosophical conversations about our faith and others.
I’m telling you all this for two reasons:
1. Society needs to stop acting like they don’t care.
2. These confirmands are ready, right now, to serve. Our newest 11 members are not the future of the church. They are the church right now. So put them to work. Real work – not busy work. And don’t limit them to set-up and clean up.
Ask these young members to serve on your committees (not as token youth representatives), and when you’re throwing out ideas for programming, ask their opinions. You’ll be glad you did.
This is an exciting time for them and for us. The spirit is moving at NorthPark. The Spirit is moving in the church universal.
Rev. Kelly Staples is Associate Pastor and Director of Youth Ministries for NorthPark Presbyterian. She grew up a member of First Presbyterian Church of Shreveport, received her Bachelor's degree from Middle Tennessee State University, and earned her Masters of Divinity from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.