This morning in our two worship services, 15 of my youth preached their mission trip experience to the congregation. I say preached because they did more than present what they did on their mission trip. They took the texts of their experiences and placed them under the text of Scripture and theology. I watched as each of them unpacked their stories with skill and articulation. They were able to make micro- and macro- insights into life and world. Our congregation was given the experience of seeing the formative task of many years at work in these students' experiences. What was more amazing is that my students did not use normal Christian cliches to convey these experiences and insights. Instead, they made use of real insight, intellect, and imagination.
When I first arrived at UPC, the youth ministry was expected to do a Youth Sunday as is traditional in many churches. I have never like Youth Sundays (for various reasons) and to date I have never conducted a Youth Sunday at UPC. However, I have created and conducted several worship services involving youth-- some for the youth and others by the youth. All of these services have been for the purpose of forming our youth in vocation and our congregation in faith. Never has the primary reason for the service been to highlight our youth ministry (although that indirectly happens any time our youth do anything). My youth have engaged the congregation in an Imago Dei ceremony on sexuality, intimacy, and fidelity; a confirmation rite-of-passage where my Jr. High students led our congregation in the traditional and ancient practices of faith forming and confirming; a service around the film Invisible Children where my students not only highlighted a world problem, but connected it to the rich tradition of Lent and the Eucharist-- the mystery of the table where the invisible is made visible through the act of confession and dining; as well as various other services. Like many other churches, we will recognize our graduates in May; however, we see it as a rite of passage where our students are called and sent into the world. This ceremony is held on Pentecost for this reason. Our students are literally sent into the world to extend the kingdom. We tell them to remember their baptism and to engage the Eucharist.
Simply put... my students are enacting theology in real life. They take the pulpit with responsibilty and courage. The preach!