My youth group has been reading our way through the book of Exodus along with our diocese as a part of A Diocesan Big Read. Two Sundays ago, one of my teens asked this question: Ms. Miriam, can we take a break from Exodus and read from Luke since it’s Lent and everything?
I almost dropped my Bible, but I played it cool. Sure, that’s a great idea, I said. What would you like to read? She already had the scripture picked out. It was the Good Book Club reading for the day Luke 18:18-43. A few weeks before, I’d placed the Good Book Club coloring poster on our table with some crayons and markers. Subtle, huh? She enjoyed coloring the pictures, and the words caught her attention. She joined the Good Book Club and brought our youth group with her.
The kids each took turns reading, then began to discuss what we’d read in the style Scott Gunn taught us at our Forward Movement Bible study, mixed with a few Godly Play wondering questions. I couldn’t have imagined where this conversation would go. Wow, did it go.
We talked about what Jesus meant when he said, Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. We talked about the literal and figurative interpretations of selling all that you own and following Jesus. We wondered why Jesus explained everything that would happen to him was then hidden from them so that they did not grasp what was said. We drew parallels from this scripture to our Exodus readings, where God hardens Pharaoh’s heart so that he does not let the Israelites go until after the tenth plague.
As our conversation deepened, we began to discuss the events of the recent weeks. Death. Popularity. Solitude. Friendship. Loneliness. Walkout. Silence. The two girls and I shared our thoughts and feelings about all of these things in the context of our lives, and our lives following Jesus. I felt blessed to have this conversation with them.
This past Sunday, I had a different set of kids. This happens often, due to the acolyte schedule and all that they have going on with their active lives. The youth were hosting coffee hour as a fundraiser for our outreach ministries, so we were busy, but I didn’t want to skip our scripture time. I decided to continue our Luke Bible study, but this time, I used Daily Devo. Full disclosure: I’m the author this week, so I knew the content.
They took turns reading the passage from Luke about Peter denying Jesus three times. I shared my brief meditation with them about how Peter must have felt in those moments, hiding in plain sight, afraid of what might happen to him if he admitted he was one of Jesus’s followers. Even though Jesus’s prophecy came true, Jesus still loved Peter, just as he loves us, even when we don’t make the best choices. Then, we compared the gospel from Mark with Luke, pointing out similarities and differences. Of course, they caught some that I’d missed.
Here’s my favorite part. I had the kids watch the video I’d included, and I went off to help my other daughter with the coffee hour preparations. When I checked on them again, they were watching their fourth “Jesus video,” and talking about which one they liked best. They laughed and talked together more than I’d seen them do in years. When boys and girls get to be teens, things can get awkward sometimes. The videos helped them connect about something with which they were familiar: in their words, Jesus stories.
So what’s my point in continuing to share stories of subtle and not-so-subtle scripture engagement? I suppose I see hope every week that kids come to the youth room. The girl who wanted to read Luke shared, I come to church because I have to, but I come to the youth room because I want to. I enjoy the conversations. Her comment reminded me of the post I wrote around a year ago about whether or not we should make our kids go to church.
I know for a fact that my kids don’t always want to go to church – especially my high school senior. I missed my chance with her, and I hate that. But this group of teens I have now – the ones whose parents make them come to church – they’re ready and willing to see what the scriptures have to offer. They’re looking for answers to what’s happening in the world. And the best news is that they’re finding those answers in the Bible and in our youth room. At least they keep looking, and I’m here to walk with them as we figure it out together.
How is scripture engagement going with your family, Sunday School, or youth group?
Any new ideas, thoughts, or struggles to share?