Be a saint by taking time to guide the next generation

November 15, 2010 

In the course of life, it seems two types of meaningful moments are revealed: those of great pause and those of great activity.

I had the opportunity to experience both this weekend. The latter moment -- of great activity -- came when our youth ministry took a group of fathers, sons and friends, as well as my wife (the only woman), for a few hours of paintball.

It was a cool day, so we took our guns into the woods and fields, scattered ourselves with paint and momentary pain, and bonded by telling war stories after the battles on ninja fields, fortress contests and capture-the-flag rallies.

I've learned that young and old men alike enjoy kicking each other around a bit in good fun. This event was memorable, and it touched me to see fathers playing on the same teams as their sons. As a youth director, I find that any time adults spend with the upcoming generation in a positive environment, is a good thing.

We came back bruised, battered and smiling.

Later, a great moment of pause came in our Sunday morning service as we remembered All Saints Day.

At St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church, a candle is placed before the altar, and at a point in the service, the young acolyte takes the flame and lights a candle, each for a different saint of the church who passed away the previous year. A bell chimes each time, which has a deep impact on the soul in a way that is difficult to describe.

Finally, we are asked to remember the saints who have already passed, who have affected each of us. I always remember my grandmother who passed a few years ago, and who was a strong source of faith for her six children and 20-something grandchildren. Every All Saints Day, her memory resounds in my mind and heart, and on this day I stopped for a long moment to reflect.

Paul once said to the Ephesians, "And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ."

Even though we celebrate those who have passed away, we are reminded that we, together, are currently saints, and we have the responsibility to show others the power manifested in Christ's love. We can only do that by our actions, by showing others that we care.

One way to put that love in action is to help your church's youth ministry. (I'm a youth minister, I had to put a plug in here sometime.)

If there isn't a youth ministry at your church, you might want to start one. I know it sounds tough, but in the spirit of All Saints Day I have some words of encouragement: 1. You are never too old to invest in a young person's life, and 2. Young people are not the church of tomorrow, they are the church today. They just don't know everything that you do yet, and they need guideposts, role models, mentors and good listeners.

You are a saint, and these young ones are saints -- and we are in this together.

For me, my guidepost came in the form of a 50-year-old volunteer, a man named Mike, who took the time to ask me how I was doing at church.

Mike took an interest in me and didn't just talk about the weather, but rather asked me what was going on. I didn't always have something to tell him, but I was always glad he asked. I have a vivid memory of Mike's presence in my life: While I prayed in a pew as a teen before youth group, he would sit with me. I don't remember any of his lessons -- except that he did teach. I don't remember any of his prayers, but his presence was a mile marker in my life.

I hope that you will take some time to be "together" with another saint -- whether it is on the paintball field or in a church -- in remembrance of the saints who have invested in your life.

Daniel Griswold is director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Twitter Name: dannonhill

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