I watch my sons navigate the busy world of today's teen, and I find myself on-my-knees grateful that we've found a way to offer an intimate Coming of Age program, a break, for the four high school teens at our little church. Sorry, our middle sized church. I forget.
This church has grown like one of those crazy huge sunflowers that you can almost see stretch for the sun, the children's program often leading the way. But as often seems to happen, the families who attend like clockwork with little ones, get busy, get burned out, get lost or just stop bringing the kids along as they reach the teen years. So our numbers of high schoolers are small.
For my middle son, he was the only one left in his age group when it came time to do a "Coming of Age" so we did it DIY style--you can read about it here.
At our little church on the hill we have one teen a year younger than my middle son, and three two years behind. Not a whole lot of teens. But there are many 8th graders on their way up. If there is one thing that we've learned, it's to do something small before you do it big. Run a program with five core kids, learn all kinds of things, and then run it big with a group. Even with my leaving in a few weeks, a fabulous group of adults have taken on leading this group, with a commitment to hold what they've learned to use next time. Lessons learned will stay put. We are calling the program "Sanctuary" because it's a little time out of the triple-speed teen life to think and dream and just be for a while with a group of other teens who you have known since you were just a little kid. A safe place to rest and prepare for the next part of life.
Then, this morning I read this great post in the UU World about religious heritage and how a search of the religious identity of your ancestors can help you be grounded in your own identity, and I realize what an amazing group of leaders we have. This was their inspiration for our little group as one of their projects, a family tree of faith--or "what did you great grandfather believe and where did he go to worship?"
This is the biggest lesson I've learned in my work these last seven years. We must trust the wisdom of the people, trust the process of a small group of committed people. Yes, there are wonderful curricula out there to guide groups through this Coming of Age process, but sometimes knowing and dreaming and creating together brings to life just the thing that is needed.
Sometimes you just have to pray and talk and hope and then take a huge running leap.