But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim [Jesus] unless they are sent? – Romans 10:14-15a (NRSV)
This reflection is for all parents, grandparents, Christian education directors, youth ministers, Sunday school teachers, childcare providers, children’s ministry committees, church councils, pastors, and all other church volunteers and staff called to care for the souls of children and youth.
In case you have any doubts about what you’re doing (and who doesn’t these days?), your work is essential.
In case knowing how to do that work is confusing and uncertain (especially in this post-pandemic time), please trust that your work is life-giving.
Even crusty old Paul the Apostle, who probably didn’t have kids of his own and likely never organized a youth mission trip, would agree. He knew the value of Christian education and the church’s central work in sharing God’s powerful love and the story of Jesus Christ. From his prison cell in Rome, he wrote to the early church, “How can people call on one in whom they have not believed?” And how can they believe, he continued, if they’ve never heard of that one?
Yet helping children and youth even hear of that one—much less develop a relationship with God or an understanding of Jesus Christ—is more daunting than ever. A local congregation competes for families’ attention and time with everything from “consumer kid influencers” to soccer schedules.
But even when you don’t know what will work with kids, don’t give up. It is life-giving work. It is soul work.
Strengthen our souls, O God, that we might strengthen the souls of your young ones. Amen.
Talitha Arnold is Senior Minister of the United Church of Santa Fe (UCC), Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is the author of Mark Parts 1 and 2 of the Listen Up! Bible Study series and Worship for Vital Congregations.