There’s something about Mary
Mary is an old friend of mine. I describe her as an old friend, partly because I’ve known her since I was 10 years old – and partly because she is 50 years my senior! I met Mary at my local Methodist Church. She was an opinionated welsh lady with a nice line in sarcasm. After a Sunday morning service she would often come and check how I was – ask me my news and then make a joke at my expense! I used to appreciate these encounters and after a while I began to go and seek her out. If she was talking to one of the adults I would wait my turn, then tell her my news, she would make some sarcastic comments, I would laugh, then I would go and join the other lads and play football in the church hall.
18 years later I was being ordained in Scarborough – and Mary was one of the people who came to share the day with me! It was lovely to see her at my ordination service. The interesting thing was she wasn’t a minister, a preacher, or one of my Sunday school teachers, she was just a Christian lady who would take a couple of minutes each week to talk to me. Growing up, I heard a lot of talks in Church, and did a lot of learning exercises in Sunday school. It all helped to educate me but in truth I hardly remember any of it! I do, however, remember Mary, and others, who took an interest in me and helped to give me a picture of what a Christian is.
What do the young people in our churches think Christianity is? Is it “what the preacher was talking about?” Can they even remember what the preacher was talking about? If so will they still remember 3 months or 10 years down the line? What do our young people think Christianity is? Do they think Christianity is a list of do’s and don’ts? Do they see it as a Sunday morning routine? This may not be a compelling enough vision of Christianity to help them stick with the church through their turbulent teenage years and their early adulthood.
We hope and pray that for our young people Christianity will be an ever growing relationship with their Saviour! To help them they need to know others who are in a relationship with Jesus. They need to see Christians being Christians – they need to know and feel supported by Christian people. Parents and grandparents are often not enough. Other role models are needed! Sunday School teachers, youth leaders and ministers will be important but don’t underestimate the simple act of greeting a young person and asking them how they are doing! That’s what Mary did for me and I appreciated it more than she could have anticipated. Mary’s conversations helped me to feel part of a church community – rather than just a Sunday morning routine.
Obviously, when talking with young people it’s important to make use of safeguarding guidelines. If you’re not sure about these then get your minister or safeguarding officer to take you through them.
Did you attend church as a child? How do you remember the adults you encountered? How do you think children and young people in our churches today will remember us in 30 years’ time? The funny thing is that if someone asks one of our young people “What do you think Christianity is?” ………They might just think of you!
(For some really interesting thoughts on the church and young people try reading ‘Sticky Faith’ by Dr Kara E Powell and Dr Chap Clark, published by Zondervan)
Rev Andy Clark