Teach your children right from wrong, and when they are grown they will still do right.
Proverbs 22:6 (CEV)
Can it possibly be that the back-to-school season has come to graduation season so quickly? It sure doesn’t seem like it. More shockingly, this Sunday we will honor a group of young adults that had their ACTUAL first day of school (you know, kindergarten, Pre-K, 1st grade) not all that long ago.
Oh, I know, they will tell you differently, we were their age once and remember how eager we were to escape the “confines” of school. And if we only knew then what we know now, right? But of course, that’s the way it has always been in one way or another; it’s probably necessary and useful.
To our graduates, we say congratulations. We temper it with all sorts of advice, and anyone who has had any substantive interaction with the educational system realizes that for our high school graduates, the accomplishment may be more one of survival than actual preparation for what comes next (it’s getting better but the world is changing so fast and school at all levels resists change pretty fervently). My hope, my prayer, actually, is not that the K-12 system was enough for our graduates, but that our church was.
The Pew Research Center reports that this generation of students is not very likely to maintain fellowship with a congregation of believers. That’s right, over a third will seldom or ever be in service, and over two thirds will be irregular attendees at best. At this crucial time in young adulthood when the world is so stacked against them, so many are not finding support and purpose in the company of fellow believers, and that makes me sad.
We can’t blame them, though. No, we have to shoulder that burden ourselves. They flee church for the same reason they flee school. It was not a place that nurtured many of them; it didn’t give them the education, the sense of belonging, or the sense of purpose that it should have. Simply put, the adults let them down.
I sincerely hope that our graduates are in the first cohort (or at least somewhere between the first and second). I hope that they have felt the Spirit in our Church and seen Jesus in the hands and hearts of those who they have spent time with during their time with us. I hope that we have discharged our duty to raise them up in the way they should go. That we have given them the “circumstance” and not merely the “pomp” (for then we would be Pharisees).
To our graduates, I say again, congratulations. You are beginning the next phase of being who you want to be when you grow up. The advice I’ll give you (because it’s a truth that few of us ever figure out who we want to be when we grow up), is don’t worry about “who” you want to be and remember “whose” you are. The world may seem a big scary place, but you have the Creator of the Universe looking out for you. What you learned in Sunday School is not only true, but crucial: Jesus loves you and wants you to be a part of the Kingdom He’s building. If we didn’t do a good enough job of helping you see that, then forgive us and let the Holy Spirit and God’s Prevenient Grace bring you through.
Matt Dozier, Lay Servant