Schedules tend to be so demanding in our lives. As an urban Mennonite Church, my youth come from over 20 different high schools this year, and our families are part of at least 7 different school districts. Not only do we have multiple recreational activities, extra curricular opportunities, and demanding academic workloads, we also rarely find time to connect with people who live so far away from us and go to different schools.
Technology tends to be so overwhelming in our lives. Nearly every youth and adult in our congregation has a phone and is on a computer nearly daily. Facebook, blogs, emails, texts, tweets, and countless other ways of interacting and accessing information are part of our daily (and sometimes hourly) existence.
How do we exist in this era of opportunity and information overload?
Christians, Anabaptists, and Mennonites have been story people ever since we joined Jesus in carrying the story of the Jews, and ever since Mary, Stephen, Paul, Peter, and Lydia kept sharing stories and testimonies. The early church communities grew, bonded, saved and redeemed through telling and hearing each other’s stories and testimonies. I believe stories will keep saving the church community today, and pave the way for the growing future of the church.
Convention is a unique opportunity in our lives as Mennonites. Where else do we hear about the national, and even global, work and call of the church in such a concise and potent time? The week at Convention is less than 1% of the two years between conventions. Yet in that 1% of our life, we are exposed to, engaged with, and evangelized by the very good news that Jesus’ story is being realized in many different communities and settings. We learn that God is still inviting us, that Jesus is still showing us, and that the Holy Spirit is still helping us to love each other.
Sometimes we are so busy and distracted with schedules and technology that we start to forget. We start to forget that the crucial part of life is taking time to reflect and to remember that we are part of a bigger picture. Too often our families and youth view church attendance as a back-up plan if nothing else is going on. Too often we do not know the value of our liturgical community, and therefore do not know how it exists in a life with sports, music, academia, recreation, etc. I challenge the post-modern, emergent, post-Christendom churches and youth to define the unique and soulful role of the faith community in our lives. Where else do we reflect and remember that there is a bigger picture?
Stories are our tool for reflection. Stories confront us with practices, theologies and experiences that challenge the notions of empire, addictions, violence, and demons that Jesus taught against and proactively engaged. Stories remind us that our GPA, orchestral seat, college selection, and career are not the only things in life. Stories give us hope beyond national politics, sickness and disease, poverty, and destructive relationships.
I pray that conventions continue to be flooded with testimonies. We have so many options in life – how many of them bring thousands of people together to share current and ancient stories and testimonies? How many of them require us to bond to each other, to God, to Jesus and to the Holy Spirit? I pray my youth accept this invitation to reflect on their lives, to be evangelized by the larger church community, and to also learn how to share their good news with other Mennonites.
Tory Doerksen is Pastor of Children and Youth Faith Formation with First Mennonite – Denver. Tory grew up in Prescott Valley, Ariz., before attending Bethel College, KS and then attending George Fox Evangelical Seminary in Portland. Along with his wife, Crystal, he has been a Service Adventure Leader in Lebanon, Oregon and Youth Venture Leader in Northern Ireland. They now live in Denver along with their infant daughter, Quinn, and toddler son, Rian. Hobbies and passions include string bass, song writing, reading new and ancient theology, and running.