Rev. Bradley Bergfalk is the pastor of First Congregational Church of Litchfield.
Scripture: 1 Timothy 4:12 (NRSV)
Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
I try to imagine what might have prompted Paul to write these cryptic words to his young protege Timothy. Was Timothy having self-confidence issues? Was Timothy not being received well by the some of the congregations he visited on Paul's behalf? Or like many of our churches, did the youthful population of the church decide church was for older people and disappear? Whichever is the case, one thing is certain, Paul believes one's age is not determinant of one's spiritual influence in the church. He exhorts Timothy to be an example for others in one's conversation, behavior, compassion, trust, and character. In other words, Timothy has just as much to offer the church as Paul does. Yet, for some reason, either the church doesn't believe it or Timothy is having a difficult time believing this about himself.
As for us, as we look around our churches it is easy for us to wonder out loud what happened to our youth? They are just so busy with school and extra-curricular activities we reason. Or we make excuses why after confirmation our youth essentially disappear. Perhaps the reason why our youth are absent from our churches is because we have been communicating the subtle message to them they are not important or worse not welcome. Perhaps we've been so busy protecting our cherished traditions, we didn't notice when they slipped out the back door never to return?
I believe Paul's admonition to Timothy is a timely exhortation for us. Maybe it's time for us to re-calibrate our ministry as if our youth really mattered? When was the last time your church up-graded the Nursery and Children's rooms in your church? If you can't remember, it's been too long. When was the last time you held a service that enabled the confirmation class or youth group to actually design the service rather than simply plug them into the existing format? When was the last time your church told your youth group you would fund their upcoming retreat or mission trip so they didn't have to spend all their time preparing for the trip fundraising? After all, we don't ask our adult members to fund-raise to purchase coffee.
Paul's timely advice to Timothy is important for us if we believe that the youth in our congregations matter to God. And if they matter to God, they ought to matter to us. Maybe our youth have something to say to us about how we conduct ourselves when it comes to the character of our Christian life? Maybe the most important thing we can do as aging congregations is provide the opportunity for our youth to show us what a life of discipleship actually looks like?
God, we thank you for every generation whose faithfulness has carried the torch of faith and faithfulness in our congregations. We thank you especially for the generation who follows us-- our youth. Give us courage to invite them into our lives and ministries so that we may learn from them. Amen.
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Prayer Requests:
Prayers of Intercession:
- for the urgent and drastic change needed to reverse environmental damage caused by our behaviors on this planet.
- for the many people in our communities experiencing homelessness.
- for renewed efforts to help those in Puerto Rico still struggling from effects of Hurricane Maria.
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- for the staff and volunteers who helped make the Silver Lake Conference Center's summer camp season successful.
- for Sabbath, sabbatical, vacation, weekends or simply breaks in our day when we can rejuvenate ourselves.
Please Remember These Connecticut Conference Churches
In Your Prayers:
North Stamford Community Church
The First Congregational Church of Stamford
Union Memorial UCC
United Church of Stonington UCC
Storrs Congregational Church UCC
This Week in History:Aug 12-13, 1961 (57 years ago): East German soldiers run 30 miles of barbed wire through Berlin, creating a barrier that would eventually become the Berlin Wall. The wall, seen by the West as a symbol of communist oppression and by the East as protection from capitalist decadents, lasted 28 years before it was torn down and Germany reunited.
Rev. Bradley J. Bergfalk is Pastor of First Congregational Church of Litchfield.