by Marlene Bogard, Minister of Christian Formation

“I’m a fool for Jesus, Whose Fool are You?”   OK, so I am writing this on April Fools’ Day.  But please, take me seriously! 🙂

As a young Jesus Freak in the 1970’s, I wrote this quote on a sign and marched in parades, playing the outspoken odd-ball, the one who could speak extemporaneously about Jesus without fear.  Sure, I lost some friends, drew some criticism; but for me this behavior was evidence of my Christian faith.

This past week I was with thirty Mennonite Church leaders at the annual Resource Advocate Retreat.  We received amazing new ideas, resources, networked, prayed and ate together. These days were totally heartwarming and affirming of Mennonite Church USA denominational agencies who led our gathering and offer so much in print, DVD, and web.

I also had some heart-to-heart conversations with mothers, like me, who have young adult children who do not connect to a church.  Serendipitously and spontaneously, several of us opened up to each other with stories of heartache, disappointment and grief.  One shared how occasions like Christmas and Easter have lost their “faithy luster,” because these holidays are not to be celebrated as Christian with their children.  I understood. I have visited with Mennonite mothers who have children who are married to Muslims, to Wiccans, and to atheists.  Most are not well equipped to deal with these new relationships.  It’s not that we don’t love our children and their spouses.  But when Christ is the center of our lives, these relationships are very difficult to navigate. I personally often feel tongue-tied around my own children, not knowing how to express my Christian faith in their midst of their un-faith.  I try so hard not to offend, and so I say very little.  Once I was not afraid to be the fool; now I am not even sure how to pray.

I offer this bit of Lenten confession so that other parents may be able to speak more openly of their own yearnings, their sadness, their confusion with regard to their relationships with their grown children.  We can find strength and hope and, yes, even confidence as we become vulnerable with each other.  God is with us on this journey, and this journey is not yet over.

Some resources connecting to this topic:

Call Numbers: 259.24 Hen
Hungry souls, holy companions : mentoring a new generation of Christians
by Hendricks, Patricia. – 2006
Call Numbers: 259.24 Mer
Tribal church : ministering to the missing generation / Carol Howard Merritt.
by Merritt, Carol Howard. – 2007
Combines real-life stories, personal reflections as a thirty-something and current research to provide a clear view or what young adults view as their quest for faith, meaning, life and love.
Call Numbers: 277.3083 Kin
Unchristian : what a new generation really thinks about Christianity and why it matters
by Kinnaman, David – 2007 

Research into the perceptions of sixteen to twenty-nine year olds reveal that Christians have taken several giant steps backward in connecting with youth and young adults. Find out why these negative perceptions exist and some ways of reversing them in a Christlike manner.

Call Numbers: 289.773 Tha
Thank you for asking : conversing with young adults about the future church
Young adults explain frankly what they think of God, the Bible, Jesus, church, sex and spirituality.

Call Numbers: DVD 277.308 Kim
by Kimball, Dan – 2008
Statistics reveal that if you ask someone if they like Jesus, you will get a yes, whereas if you ask them about the church, you will get a far less favorable response. There is a huge exodus of young adults from our churches who are “spiritual” but not “religious.” Here are first-hand thoughts from those who don’t care for organized religion but still long for a spiritual connection to a living God and an engaging community.
Call Numbers: 248.845 Mue
Opie doesn’t live here anymore : where faith, family, and culture collide
by Mueller, Walt, 1956- – 2007 

Mueller offers essays to help us understand what it means to God’s people and the world’s culture to meet, and bring to this clash, the call of Jesus in our lives.

Call Numbers: 306.8743 Jen
Taking flight from the empty nest
by Jenson, Mary. – 2001

Speaks to the enormous changes that occur emotionally and practically as the nest empties and children take flight. Also talks about the growth that can happen in our spiritual lives and with our spouse.