Discovering her cousin is moving from London to Wales, my 3 year old granddaughter Evie bounded into the room, full of excitement. ‘Edwin lives in London, and Edwin lives in Wales – Edwin lives everywhere – like God!’ Out she ran, only to burst back a few seconds later – ‘Where does God live?’ ‘In our hearts’, said her wise Grandpa. ‘God is love’.
Children are great at asking questions about God. Do we provide spaces in our church for them to ask their questions, and even more important – do we provide space to answer them?
I have just spent three days at an Adventure Centre in Swindon with 600 children and young people, aged 8-23, at 3Generate, and 200 helpers. 60 youth workers met alongside in The Well, with their own space for sharing and encouragement.
‘Having a voice’ is at the heart of 3Generate’s vision. Through logins, speak-outs, sofa chats, panel debates, and numerous creative ways, children and young people get involved, find their voice, and get their voice heard.
I was really impressed that while this was ‘fun’, at the heart was a personal encounter with God, and how to grow in personal discipleship. Questions about God, and issues from sex, self-esteem and loneliness, to politics, war and conflict and immigration, were all discussed in a context of non-judgmental listening to each other.
My only concern, especially being involved in a workshop on politics, wonderfully led by Rachel Allison, is that some really important questions were raised, and some views expressed that clearly need much longer to explore and discuss in the light of the gospel.
Can our churches take up the challenge, and become safe spaces for young people to talk about faith and moral issues in our world today? Especially when their views might be poles apart from the views of the majority of us wrinklies - and perhaps we are the ones who need to be challenged!
One of the most moving spaces at 3Generate was a prayer installation, a quiet space which individuals could enter and engage with different prayer stations. On a table where young people could write their questions for God, I was struck by the raw and honest responses to the Paris attacks, resonant with the Psalms. Current events have affected young people, making them feel insecure and adrift in a hostile world. Where is God in this?
Well done to all those involved in organizing this amazing event – something we as the Methodist Church can be so proud of. Craig Gaffney, our Youth President, is a fantastic role model for young Christians. His personal faith in Jesus Christ shines like a candle in the darkness. His honest sharing of his own testimony, reflects the love of God for each one of us, and draws others to know Jesus for themselves.