Our church is abundantly blessed with the energy of children and youth. At a time when most congregations struggle to attract young people, First English Lutheran has more than 65 active children and teens involved in every aspect of worship, fellowship and outreach. Planting seeds of faith –the mission of the Youth and Christian Education committees – has paid off big-time. Their motto: Faith is a journey that begins with birth and it’s our job to mentor that journey. The hundreds of pictures lining the windows in Melching Hall are proof positive FELC’s celebration of youth is the “miracle grow” building our congregation.
The faith journey begins with Baptism and promises of parents, godparents and the congregation to raise newly christened children to know the love of God. As children grow, the story of “Jesus loves me” is told in every Sunday school lesson and in every Children’s Message on the altar steps. God’s love and protection are reinforced during Holy Communion when babes in arms and little children receive Pastor Neil’s blessing as he makes the sign of the cross on their foreheads. By primary school they learn that God’s blessings should be passed on and giving to others can be a lot of fun – making cards and advent calendars for shut-ins, learning songs for caroling, putting on the Christmas play and going to Vacation Bible School.
Participation is important because we all are ministers of the church, no matter what our age. Teens are members of the Adult and Bell choirs. They also direct the children’s and youth choirs. Acolytes light the candles for worship and lead the processional at the start of the service. They pass out the offering plates and assist in Holy Communion and at the end, it is the acolytes, the youth of the church who offer the body and blood of Christ to Pastor Neil.
Involvement is key. The First Communion Class bakes the unleavened bread for all of us to share. They stand alongside Pastor Neil behind the altar as he recites the
Thanksgiving, repeating once again the promise of salvation first heard thousands of years ago, “This is my body, do this in remembrance of me. This is my blood shed for you.” They learn, too, that they have an important place at the altar. On Youth Sunday, it is the youngest among us who plan the service and deliver the message. Then comes three years of Confirmation Class and the study of Luther’s Catechism and the Bible. At Confirmation Camp lessons move out of the classroom with hands-on activities that teach faith must be put into action to help others. When the going gets tough, as it so often does in adolescence, they find that God’s love is always there to see them through. They learn that faith and the relationships it fosters are the source of true fun and happiness.
And having fun is a top priority. In August FELC teens traveled to St. Marys for the Waynestock Christian Bands Concert. They worked FELC’s obstacle course at the county fair, raising more than $1,500 toward their upcoming trip for the Youth Gathering in Minneapolis next year. This month on Rally Sunday, they will be operating the snow cone machine and making cotton candy for the little ones. From volunteering for Breakfast with Santa to hosting bingo games for Auglaize Acre residents to serving meals for Loaves and Fishes, our teens extend the blessings of our church into the community. True stewards of the faith, our youth are indeed the strength of our church. At FELC, children and youth are not only seen, they are heard!
Here at FELC, children and youth are not the future of the church; they are the church! And each time you see or hear our youth as they participate in church, take a minute and give thanks to God for we – all of us – have been truly blessed.