What climate change activism & mass protesting in Puerto Rico can teach the Church about young people
by Josh Good, C.E. USA - Coach and Church Development Director, World C.E. - Materials Team Co-Leader
Last month Greta Thunberg, a 16 year old from Sweden, addressed world leaders at the UN’s Climate Action Summit in New York. She pulled no punches as she shared her views on climate change.
Earlier this summer, Ricardo Rossello, then governor of Puerto Rico, was forced to resign in the face of mass protests organized & carried out in large part by students and young adults.
There has been no shortage of news coverage on these events. And the opinions expressed in response have spanned the spectrum from outrage to support, and almost everything in between. I had the unique opportunity to be in Puerto Rico this summer on the day the governor left office. What I observed in those protests has been reinforced as I’ve listened to Thunberg. These seemingly dissimilar world events have an important lesson in common – young people, full of passion, have the potential to change the word!
Regardless of how you interpret the Puerto Rican protests or the climate change position, one thing is undeniable – young people are raising their voices and they’re doing it with passion. They’re not shirking away from hard or overwhelming issues. They’re not self-focused and oblivious. They’re not passive participants to what’s going on around them. Breaking through enormous stereotypes, young people are passionately taking a seat at the world’s table. As a result of their passion, young people have incredible potential to create change. Willing to go to extremes that many in other age groups aren’t, young people are often uniquely positioned to be agents of change.
This lesson in passion & potential cries for an intentional, and often overlooked, response from the church today: We need to offer young people a place to live into that passion and potential for the glory of God.” As young people taking up causes like climate change and governmental integrity, I’m awed by their passion. I’m amazed at their potential. And I’m saddened that this is often not placed in things that have eternal value. God designed the church to be the place where young people’s passion is honed and their potential uncovered. I wonder if, failing to do that, young people are finding their passion and potential in other places. As one Puerto Rican pastor humbly remarked to me this summer, “we need to once again intentionally give young people a place within the church to find and use their voices, and we need to teach them to do that for the glory of God!”
We can stand by as young people act as agents of change without including God as the driving force for their efforts, or we can serve as guides so churches become incubators for God-ordained life change!
How can our church unleash and guide young people’s passion in ways that glorify God?
In what ways can our church call out & nurture the emotional, physical, relational and spiritual potential of young people?
What would it look like for our church to be a place for young people’s passion and potential?