Young Lives New Life:

This is a talk given at the Hamilton Ministers Winter Lectures, August 2007. It has taken me awhile to type it up!

To start with, who am I?
I am an Anglican priest, who has worked in youth ministry fro the last 20 years, both in the Methodist and Anglican churches
I am a Franciscan
I have a deep interest in spiritual formation
And I am a husband, and a father of three children

The topic, “Young Lives, New Life” can be read in a variety of ways.
It can be read as meaning the new life “we” offer young people
This way fits with picture we are constantly given of young people
As either lost, hurt, in need
Or out of control, drunk, being hoons on the road, or as violent or viscous criminals.
From my own experience, nether of these pictures are very accurate. In fact my experience would suggest the opposite is true. The Australian survey across 15-30 year olds reveals that at least in Australia young people are happy and content, in fact are optimistic about the future.
So what is another way of reading this title?
Maybe it could be about the new life offered to us by young people?

For many of us the world we live in now is very different from the one we grew up in. Let’s use two television programmes to explore what I mean.
When I grew up, one of my TV heroes was Captain James Kirk of the USS enterprise, of Star Trek
He was a hero
He led his crew on a voyage of discovery
The truth was out there, to be discovered, through rational objective evidence, and they sought it in there star ship
Sought it through discipline and science
This Truth would lead them to a better life, and progress
Everyone on that star ship had a clear sense of purpose, and there were clear boundaries and clear rules.

Today my favourite programme is Boston Legal
William Shatner is once again the leader, but a very different kind of leader.
And truth is no longer an objective reality waiting to be discovered, but depends very much on my standpoint and experience
So Denny Crane and Alan Shaw have very different truths
The moral boundaries are very fuzzy
The purpose of their endeavours is not so clear
Decisions are made by groups, not individuals (which begs the question who is the leaser, and what is their role?)
Themes such as relationships, participation and living in the now are very important,
And morality becomes very relative

These two programmes come out of and mirror two very different worlds.
Today: Screens are more important than books, {contrast how much time young people spend in front of some kind of screen (phone, computer, TV) compared to a book?}
Diversity is more important that conformity
Multicultural hold a greater value than mono cultural
The team approach of Boston Legal is more important than the lone ranger of Captain Kirk.

How can we respond to this very different almost alien world?
Denny Crane longs for the past, he liked it then
He pretends today is not like it is
And he fears for the future
There are a lot of people in our society and in our churches like this.
Many of us also like the pretend; we pretend we know how to deal with the present
But for those my age (50) and older, I want to suggest that neither approach works.
The past in gone
And sadly we don’t have the answers!
We need young people; they are the means by which we can find new life.
What might that mean? Maybe this article I read in Australia will help:

Gen X bosses up popularity stakes by Kirsty Ross
Two-thirds of Australians prefer working for a Gen X boss far more than they do a baby boomer, a national workplace survey reveals.
And 37 per cent of those polled said young managers were dramatically changing the Aussle workplace for the better, the Talent2 study of nearly 2000 people found.
Talent2 spokeswoman Laura Mabikafola said Gen Xers — those born between 1961 and 1981 — think very differently from their parents.
They work to live, not live to work; they work smarter, not harder; they think outside the box; they are more creative and confident; they are less selfish and more open to change; and less likely to insult employees.
Gen Xers also place less emphasis on hierarchy, are technologically advanced, more flexible, and possess greater gender equality and human skills.
Mabikafola said Gen Xers believed you could “have it all”.
‘Those aged between 26 and 46 have a totally different skill set to previous generations. And in terms of employees, working for them certainly has its benefits,” she said.
“Work-life balance, people skills and the idea of working smarter, not longer are ideals that appeal to this generation.”
She said baby boomers admired the technological abilities of Gen-X and the way they used them to improve business. (p.8; MX News, Melbourne, August 9 2007)

So here are five things we can do:
1. To start, we need to confess that we do not have the answers. You would be amazed at how often I hear clergy tell me that: this is the problem, this is bow to solve it, and all they need to do is persuade the vestry and the congregation that that is the ay to go. Often, I am not even sure we know what the problem is, and I am sure that most of the time the solutions are inadequate
2. In the church setting, we need to be clear about what our rich heritage offers younger people, and then pass it on.
3. We need to trust them to use it as they see fit. We need to let go!
4. We need mentors, not educators. We need guides, listening ears friends. This is not about creating “mini-me’s)
5. We need to be open to hear the voice of God in the lives of young people.

In conclusion:
Young people don’t need your answers to our questions – they are not their questions
The do need us to help them ask their own questions
They do need us to help find their own answers
In that we offer life
In that we are offered new life