We live in a 24-hour society built on the concept that staying busy, whether it be making money or perfecting a hobby, is the litmus test for a successful life. More and more adults delay retirement not because they can’t afford to retire, although that is true for many, but because they can’t stand the idea of not going to work in the morning. We start this busy agenda from a young age. School have drastically reduced recess time to allow for classroom time, while after-school activities are no longer limited to after school. Now our young people are kept busy from before the sun rises until well after the sun has set, leaving barely enough time to sleep let alone for Church.
It used to be that Sunday’s, and Wednesdays in the South, were reserved for Church. It used to be that businesses would close on Sundays, and youth activities would pause for Wednesday Church. This is no longer true, as a growing number of Sunday youth sports leagues and Wednesday practices continue to draw more and more youth away from the Church and a relationship with Christ.
You see, as Orthodox Christians we don’t separate our time in Church from our time with Christ. It is only IN Church that we are blessed to commune with God through the Holy Eucharist. For decades our youth ministries have struggled to “keep our kids” in the Church, too often with failed results. The now over quoted statistic that more than 60% of youth are leaving the Church should serve as a warning siren. Years of basketball and bowling (insert your favorite fun activity here) have failed to instill enough passion in our youth to remain connected to Christ and His Church.
This year marks my 25th year working in ministry and I continually ask, “When will Church be enough?” When will we realize that we are failing to instill in our youth a love for living the faith? When will we admit that, once someone has aged out of basketball and bowling (insert your favorite fun activity here), if someone has not learned to love to live the faith in Christ, there is nothing left to keep them connected?
Great Lent begins in few days and I fear most of our young people will not attend the beautiful Church services that are offered to help them grow closer to Christ. They will not attend confession. They will not read their Bibles. They will not fast. They will not help the poor. They will not pray. They won’t participate in these blessed aspects of their faith, not because they wouldn’t want to, but because they were never taught how. We adults were too busy driving them from practice to practice, and tournament to tournament. Some day I pray, Church will be enough!