Dear Teenager: The Church Needs Your Voice

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Dear Student,

I’m not sure how often you’ve heard this, but you are of infinite value: a human created in the image of a God who would stop at nothing to bring you into relationship with Himself. You were worth dying for, you are loved to your deepest, darkest places, and you are forever welcomed into the family of God through Jesus Christ. You are a part of my family – my brother, my sister. You have an identity, hope, and purpose here in this family of God, and you are safe here. You belong here. As a matter of fact, we need you here.

You have been created to reflect God in a way that no one else can; you are uniquely made in His image. That means you can offer us, your family, things no one else can – because they aren’t living your story, only you are. And we need to hear your story.

We want to know what intrigues you, what questions you have about God, purpose, meaning, and identity. We want to know what you’re passionate about, what you dislike, what struggles you have, and what dreams you have. We need to hear where you see us, as the church, failing to love our neighbors, and failing to love you well. We also need to hear how you see, connect to, and understand faith. We need your perspective, your doubts, your jokes, your fears, your insight, and most importantly, your presence. If you don’t have an answer to the “deep” questions we ask (I am notorious for “Liz questions”), no worries: we still want your presence.

We want to learn from your worship, from the way you see the church, the world, and Jesus. We want to learn about what it’s like for you to walk the halls of your school and to hear the messages you’re taking in from friends and social media. We want to hear what excites you about following a God who has defeated death – DEATH! And we want to hear why and how it is hard to sit through a church service sometimes. We need your curiosity, desperately.

And we need for you to forgive us, your older brothers and sisters in the church, for the countless times we have failed to see you, to recognize how deeply valuable your voice is, and to invite you be our friend. We need you to forgive us for letting our fear of “not knowing how to talk to you” or our fear of “awkwardness” keep us from engaging you. We need you to forgive us for not loving and honoring you well, and for not listening to you well.

Would you forgive us? And would you then help us to learn from you? Would you give us the opportunity to listen to you and to let your voice impact the church? Would you help us to make this space a welcome place for students who feel just like you do? For littler kids who can sometimes get lost amidst all the grownups? For older folks who would take utter delight in being invited to belong by you?

You matter so much more than you know, and you are loved far more than you could ever fathom. Would you allow us the great privilege of hearing about who you are, what you think, and of who Jesus is to you?

Sincerely,
Liz

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