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Next Gen- NOW!

This past weekend, I discovered muscles I never knew I had, compliments of a tree adventure with our Lenape Valley teens. Stepping from one swinging board to the next, flying through the air on ziplines, trying to balance on a tight-rope line (and failing)… from one challenge to the next I realized that the wisdom of years is no match to the spry flexibility and courage of youth! This was just one of the lessons from the spring youth retreat. Imagine popcorn for breakfast, volleyball in the living room, teens beating their chests like gorillas, and then bowed in prayer… being on retreat with our youth was a fascinating adventure! For three days, we explored the ageold fairy tale question- “Mirror, mirror on the wall...” How does the world see us? How do we see ourselves? And ultimately- how does God see us? These are important questions for all of us to consider, but especially this Gen Z generation that has struggled to emerge from the darkness and isolation of the pandemic.

Much has been written about the state of the heart and mind of this emerging generation. Anxiety and depression are on the rise as our children begin to enter a complex and often graceless world. I could show you statistics and quote social commentators, but that information would only confirm what you already know- our children are hurting. The world they are inheriting from us is devolving into a chaos of anger and hate, of violent storms and melting ice caps, of shifting moral values that leave them wondering what/who to believe. Before they have developed the capacity to discern and decide wisely, they are having to navigate a labyrinth of questions that leave all of us wondering. So, this past weekend we went back to the one sure and certain reality- God’s love. We asked the question- how does God see us? If you want to do a little Bible study- I offer these passages for your consideration:
Isaiah 49:15-16
John 15:9-17
I John 3:1
Romans 8:35-39
Colossians 3:12a
Ephesians 2:10
Each passage gave us a word or phrase to describe God’s love for us: “carved on the palms”- (think of the nail print on Jesus’ hands)…“friend”“child of God”“nothing can separate us”“chosen, holy, dearly loved” “masterpiece”- each truth spoken as an antidote to the venom of our modern culture. Please join me in praying that these truths move and shape the hearts and minds of our teens.

Our final lesson of the retreat considered how God can use us to remind each other of His grace-full love. Studies have shown that it takes at least 7 words of affirmation to quiet 1 word of criticism. [Keep in mind the difference between “correction” and “criticism”- one offered to help inspire growth, the other offered to tear down.] We took time on Sunday morning to create a moment of love for our group. With laughter and poignant stories, we poured words of affirmation into the lives of our youth. What a joy to watch them pour grace into each other’s lives. It would be easy to see that moment as one of those ‘mountain top’ retreat experiences, but I think our youth need a regular diet of God’s love in their lives! They need us to live into the promises we made when they were baptized.
Do you, the people of the church, promise to tell these new disciples
 the good news of the gospel, to help them know all that Christ commands,
 and, by your fellowship, to strengthen their family ties with the household of God?
Every time you donate to the church, every time you participate in a pancake breakfast or pasta dinner, every time to smile at our youth or encourage the adults who work with them, every time you drop to your knees to pray for them, you are sharing in God’s grace that blesses our teens along the journey. Most of us have teens in our lives- a child, grandchild, niece/nephew, neighbor, friend. Those teens also need a touch of grace- a phone call, a card, a prayer. We need to invest in this Next Generation, not because they are our future, but because they are our present. Today is the day to be God’s instrument of grace!

With you joyfully celebrating our Next Gen!
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