Here’s a re-post of an article my dad wrote; originally printed in the January issue of the Northeastern Iowa Synod STAR newsletter. The stories shared by my dad and the other pastor remind me that young people can do amazing things in our congregations. Sometimes, all it takes is for adults to get out of the way. EU
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This summer, Ruth and I had the opportunity worship with our family and the family in which I was raised. Seventeen of us filled two pews for the first time in many years. It was good to be together, to confess and be forgiven, to sing and pray, to hear God’s word and taste the heavenly feast together.
The highlight of the service, however, was the reading of scripture. A young man, perhaps 4th or 5th grade, came forward for the First and Second Readings for the day. Though he could barely reach the microphone, he had fully prepared to proclaim God’s Word through these readings. He did not call attention to himself but rather, by his presence and the inflection of his voice, he pointed us to Holy Scripture. Each sentence was read with respect and a genuineness that revealed the young man’s faith. I am certain that I have never heard Romans 8 read with such power and conviction. (Yes, I’ve already written to him expressing my thanks and encouraging him to become a pastor!)
When I shared my gratitude with one of his pastors, the Rev. Rachel Thorson Mithelman, she offered another example of this ministry of the congregation.
It is usually on the 2nd Sunday of the month that we call upon the children and youth of St. John’s to serve as lectors – those who proclaim the First and Second Readings. Do not be mistaken – this is not training for when they grow up and become “real” lectors. These children and youth are full members of the body of Christ and of this particular community of faith, and as such they are also called to proclaim the life-giving Word of God in the assembly.
On the 2nd Sunday of April, one of our 4th grade girls stepped into the lectern for the first time. She read the introduction to the First Lesson with clarity and composure, paused, then taking a deep breath, she looked up and announced with even more volume and conviction, “People of God, listen for the Word of the Lord!” Everyone in the sanctuary immediately sat up straighter. Wandering minds snapped back into the moment, those nodding off woke up, and the preacher let go of her usual pre-sermon angst! Here was a witness, ready to proclaim the Word “from the housetops,” as Jesus directed.
And the entire assembly responded with equal strength and conviction: “Our ears are open!“
Perhaps you have young people in your congregation who are willing to serve the congregation and God’s word in this way. In addition to the necessary reading skills, it will be important to find individuals who are persons of faith who are committed to properly prepare for the readings. I believe that it will enrich the congregation, connect with young people and deepen the faith of the reader. Much good comes when we encourage our children and youth to share the “Book of Faith” in the congregation.
— Steven L. Ullestad
Bishop, Northeastern Iowa Synod