Just read a great book on Youth ministry: it’s Rose Meets Mr Wintergarten, a children’s picture book by Australian author Bob Graham (//www.walkerbooks.com.au/Books/Rose-Meets-Mr-Wintergarten-074459829X)
Rose Summers has just moved in next door to Mr Wintergarten. Mr Wintergarten is a man so frightening that if your ball goes over his fence, “forget it!”
Rose’s ball gets kicked over the fence. But instead of believing the stories about Mr Wintergarten eating children, Rose decides to go and ask for her ball back, taking some freshly baked fairy cakes and a bunch of flowers to help pave the way.
It’s her act of grace and courage that turns the story.
Mr Wintergarten responds as you’d expect – he growls at Rose and sends her away without her ball. But Rose’s act of grace prompts Mr Wintergarten to take a risk of hope – Mr Wintergarten opens his curtains, and sits on his front step in the sun, and kicks the ball back over the fence.
Chap Clark has described our western culture as being characterised by the ‘systemic abandonment’ of teenagers by adults. The fault lines of that division are felt even in our churches – as teenagers distrust adults, and adults are fearful of teenagers.
Our young people are able to make acts of courage and grace that can change all that.
Adults are able to respond by taking risks of hope.
But if you’re in youth ministry – whether you’re a parent or a youth leader, then you’re like Mrs Summers, Rose’s mum, without whom nothing would have happened. She was there to speak the truth, to offer advice and to be a supporting presence.
Our world and the church needs more Mrs Summers.
Today’s a good day to help a young person take hold of the truth of the gospel, to suggest how they could respond with acts of courage and grace, and to walk with them as they face their fears and step out in faith.
Who knows, they might get their ball kicked back over the fence.