The ‘Testing of Faith’ is so very real in our times. No longer do we have to look in other places to see and feel the shock, the fear, the anxiety, the anguish, the hopelessness and confusion of Life… the “Six Degrees of Separation” are now down to perhaps… Two! We know the difficulties, as adults, in maintaining a level of Faith in the constant crisis of life and death, but now that it has reached the level of ‘childhood’, what have we done?
I have long been an advocate of Full-Time Children’s Ministers and Full-Time Youth Ministers in the Church. When I graduated from Seminary in 1981 I was clear about my path in Ministry. I had already incorporated into my ‘model for Church’ the Atlanta’s Peachtree Road Church’s then ‘Twelve Pastor’, all Full-Time Paid pastoral appointments serving the various life levels; to include each of the Age Level Ministries as well as “Death and Dying” and more. A “Full-Time Children’s Minister”, yes, my path was clear to me.
What I found was NOT ONE BLACK Church in the United Methodist Conference serving Atlanta and North Georgia had committed to a FULL-TIME Paid Children’s NOR Youth Minister! Even THEN, in the midst of the historical crisis in Atlanta of 28 murdered Black male children and youth. The ONLY FULL-TIME ministerial position were PASTORS! So I went forward in service as Pastor to the Gordon Road Church (now Headland Heights) in Atlanta; DOING ministry to the children and youth of that Church’s community in a way in which we continue even now to see the fruit.
In 2013 The American Civil Liberties Union reported their findings, suggesting by their Title that America has an addiction to Juvenile Incarceration. “On any given day, nearly 60,000 youth under age 18 are incarcerated in juvenile jails and prisons in the United States.” When the constant crisis of life and death reaches the level of ‘childhood’, what have we done?
It has become even clearer that the call to the epic proportion crisis of Ministry to Children must no longer to be lumped with the epic proportion crisis of Ministry to Youth. In looking around the Black Church Community in Nashville what I STILL find IS NOT ONE BLACK Church in the United Methodist Conference serving TENNESSEE and Nashville has committed to a FULL-TIME Paid Children’s NOR Youth Minister… even NOW in the midst of the historical crisis known as the “School to Prison Pipeline”!!! With upward of 1,300 KINDERGARTEN students suspended from School in Tennessee in 2017…this thing IS… REAL.
I have, across my years of Ministry, seen clearly the “two-faced” relationship that the Church has had with Children and Youth. I have on numerous occasions in my Preaching made this statement, “It is ‘Time Out’ for VOLUNTEER Work with Children and Youth in the Church”. The ‘measure’? The large volume number of Churches where NO Children and NO Youth are present! You figure out the ‘WHY’? and the ‘HOW’? I’ll wait… NO! NO more… Waiting!
This return from COVID’s effect on child and youth development— with all of it’s misplacements and displacements is critically tied to the return of the Church from ‘cyberspace’. “Suffer”, Jesus says, “the children to come” to the place where WE SAY God is.. “for such BELONGS” The Kingdom…”. Oh, and that “Where your Treasure is, your HEART IS..” thang!
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