No More Sandwich Signs Please

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sandwiches
Photo credit: twitter.com/matthewschmitz, twitter.com/billmefford

What’s the “sandwich sign”?

I awoke today to a firestorm around an important leader in the church holding a sign in front of a political march filled with young adults and teens that said “I March for Sandwiches.” When I saw this I was beyond upset, but not for the reasons most of my friends were.

I was not upset because he was or wasn’t representing my beliefs on the inflammatory topic at hand.  I was not upset because someone in power in my denomination had those beliefs.  I was upset because making light of the passionate, faith-rooted actions of the next generation makes them leave the church.

I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and check out his responses on Twitter. His response was unfortunate. Each response seemed to center around a single idea. According to him, everyone who saw the sign at the march laughed and cheered. He claims to be a jokester and was looking to keep the event lighthearted.

What it means for youth ministry

Here we find a powerful lesson for youth ministry.  When you make light hearted jokes about things that the next generation is both intensely passionate about and deeply divided over, those who agree with you will laugh. Those that do not will likely walk away, and not come back.

As leaders of the next generation we need to be very careful to cultivate passionate action in our teens.  We need to encourage them to search the scriptures and their Godly mentors to discover what they believe.  Once they discover their belief, we need to encourage them to act on those beliefs. We must encourage them to channel the passion they have for Jesus and Justice into action in the world.

Why? Because that is what we are to do and be as Christians! Our faith is not passive; it does not sit by and mock. Our faith does. Our faith is transformative; our faith is life changing. Our faith is about bringing the Kingdom of God more fully on the earth.  It is not about silencing and dividing.

The real problem

The problem is not that this leader disagreed, it is that his mocking sign said to those young people on the other side of this issue, “We are not on the same team.” and “My church thinks your passion is ridiculous.”

If I am completely honest, his sin is my sin.  There have been times (though I hope they are less and less frequent) when I have done the same thing.  Instead of engaging with a student, I have used my position to mock an issue or make them feel as if their perspective is not a valid one.  And, I’m sad to say, I don’t see many of those kids anymore.

To the ministers to the next generation (and anyone reading this who is in any place of authority in the life of someone of the next generation) I say this: be careful!  Instead of making jokes about issues that young people are passionate about, seek to live into Wesley’s call: “They who ‘walk after the Spirit’ are also led by him into all holiness in conversation.”

May our words and deeds give birth to more passionate expressions of our students vital, Christ-centered faith, and may we receive the grace of God through repentance when our words and deeds fall short of the holiness we desire to express.

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When he is not playing with his four children with his wonderful wife, Jeremy oversees children, youth, and college ministries in addition to leading the evening worship service at Christ United Methodist Church in Mobile, Al. He is passionate about reaching people with the message of Jesus in a way that engages them with the movement of God. Jeremy is the Senior Editor of the Seedbed Youth Ministry Collective and the author of Reclaiming the Lost Soul of Youth Ministry. You can find a list of all his books, articles and resources for churches at his website: JeremyWords.com

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