A few Sundays ago, I was asking our middle-schoolers if they felt like they have a voice in a world that seems to belong to adults: “Do you feel seen and heard when you have something different to say? … Do you feel like your voice actually matters?” At first, hesitation filled the air, and then slowly they began answering.
Some shook their heads ‘yes’, some shook their heads ‘no’, and some — of course — could care less what my question had even been. But then, one kid raises her hand and says this:
— “Actually, no… in some ways I don’t feel heard and seen at all. I mean, think about climate change. It is a legacy being left for me, and one I did not ask for. It was caused without my opinion, and now I am the one who needs to deal with it.”
And although Climate Change is only one example — perhaps an extreme one — I find it fascinating (and a bit tragic) how each generation is burdened with having to carry the consequences of the previous generation’s missteps. It is as if, even before they can develop into their own people, our Youth are already “trapped” into paying for our mistakes and even, in some ways, condemned to perpetuating them.
And this isn’t anything new. In fact, the ancient Hebrew writers wrestled with the same question: will our children always be held accountable for the sins of their parents? (Exodus 34:7; Numbers 14:8). And while I don’t have any definitive answers to that, I do wonder if part of the problem is the lack of cooperation between adults and teens/kids, a disconnection most often reflected in the absence of youth in the crucial, decision-making places of our communities.
Going back to our example of Climate Change: isn’t this something that was created with zero regard for, and zero input from, those who are coming right behind us? And if they had a say, would they tell us to be just a bit more considerate of the ways we consume and exploit our planet?
This coming Sunday, the Youth and I will be guiding our community to reflect a bit more intentionally and critically on whether we have built a society where our kids have the permission, grace, and freedom to speak their own truth. And are we, adults, willing to listen — especially when their speech does not match what we expect them to say?
Sounds intriguing, huh? I hope you will join us for Youth Sunday.