Will Our Children Have Faith?

Having worked over the last decade with dozens of congregations and hundreds of congregational leaders, I can tell you that there are no more pressing questions in the church today than these two inter-related ones: “Will our children have faith? Will our faith have children?”

While Mount Olivet boasts a strong tradition of focusing on our youth through choirs, education, youth ministry, and COP, we are also asking these questions, recognizing that the strength of our congregation is never something we can take for granted. Moreover, we realize that the world in which our children and grandchildren are growing up is quite different than the one in which we grew up. The larger culture no longer has a vested interest in encouraging young people to go to church, and myriad other activities beckon for their attention and allegiance, including on Sunday morning. Which means that if we want our children to have faith and our faith to have children, we will have to invest in them, be intentional in our ministry, and make passing on our faith to the emerging generation a priority.

There are two initiatives we are undertaking this fall that are central to our strategy and that will need your support if they are to succeed. The first is our fall Stewardship campaign. I realize you may not think about Stewardship as central to youth ministry, but it is. Each year we answer the question of whether we will continue our strong support of our youth ministry – and, indeed, all of our ministries – through our gifts and pledges. This year, we will focus particularly on our pledging, asking you to give prayerful and intentional consideration of your financial support so that we can create a responsible and realistic budget and ensure continued services and ministries at Mount Olivet, including support for our youth programs.

There is another reason to pledge that may surprise you: your pledge will strengthen your own faith and increase your ability to share your faith with others, including the young in your life. When we give prayerful and intentional thought to our financial support, we often recognize that we are blessed beyond what we had imagined. Moreover, we discover the joy of giving to a cause in which we believe and get more excited about sharing our commitment and faith with others. And our faithful pledging – or lack of pledging – sets an example. Never forget that our children learn most from what we do, not simply what we say. For all these reasons – to support our church in its commitment to pass on the faith, to strengthen your own faith, and to set a positive example – I ask that you attend one of our Stewardship dinners (opportunities on page 14) and give prayerful and intentional consideration to your pledge of financial support.

The second important initiative of the fall is providing a strong culmination to our yearlong commemoration and celebration of the Reformation as we reach its 500th anniversary. To help us better appreciate and share the faith we profess as Lutherans, we will be offering a sermon series entitled “Grace in Action: Making Sense of Martin Luther’s Life-Changing Theology” that will run from September 17 to October 29. Each week we will explore one of the central elements of Luther’s Reformation insight in order to not only understand it, but also to live out and share his dynamic theology. For those who want to go deeper, Augsburg Fortress has just published Making Sense of Martin Luther, a conversational-style book I wrote to help Christians connect Luther’s theology to everyday life and that corresponds with the themes of the sermon series. You can find a complete overview of the sermon series and book themes.

In addition, there will be several other opportunities to gain a deeper appreciation for our Lutheran heritage, including (1) the Minnesota Orchestra’s performance of Felix Mendelssohn’s Reformation Symphony written to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Reformation and the newly commissioned Re-Formation Symphony and (2) the play Martin Luther on Trial. Details of these and other Reformation-related events.

Will our children have faith? Will our faith have children? This fall we have not just the opportunity but the imperative to answer these questions in and through our life at and support of Mount Olivet. For in the end, these aren’t just questions, but rather a calling. God’s call to us to share the good news of the gospel with all, beginning with our children and grandchildren. I hope and pray that you will join us.