By The Reverend Dr. Katie Snipes Lancaster

I want to talk about this year’s confirmation class through two important lenses: technology and talent.

First, technology: Fortune Magazine editor Geoff Colvin says, “We’re hardwired by 100,000 years of evolution to value deep interaction with other humans and not with computers.” However, in his book Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connection in an Age of Isolation, Dan Schawbel reports that nationally, we are spending almost a third of our personal and professional time on Facebook, we spend about 6.3 hours a day checking email, and send more than thirty text messages a day. This year’s ninth graders stand firmly in that tension. They are living completely different lives than you lived at 14 or 15. This is the stream by which they have been planted, the un/familiar territory in which they are being asked to flourish.

Second, talent: An urban pastor in Indianapolis quit hosting the soup kitchen and tutoring programs at his church. He had buried 9 young men who had come through his tutoring program—all who died violent deaths—and realized that despite years of offering these services, their work did very little to push the needle of change in the right direction. You can read the whole story here to fill in the details: What he said did start making a difference was listening to the young men and women in his neighborhood. He started asking them, “What three things do you do well enough that you could teach others how to do them?” He started tapping into their talent. He started connecting people across their talents.

Parents of teenagers sometimes wonder: how do we get our kids to look up from their phones. Churches sometimes wonder: how do we engage young people in meaningful participation in what is sacred about church community. Kenilworth Union Church is confirming 38 young people this Sunday. Ask them: what are three things that you know well enough to teach other people? Ask them: what are three things you would like to learn about? Tap into their talent. Connect them to people across their talents. God is able to do something new among us when we listen to one another.

This year’s confirmation students play soccer, football, water polo, golf: they have teamwork skills. They learn almost exclusively in a tech-enabled format (all students are given an iPad where all their textbooks are hosted and assignments collected). They have unique communication skills. They successfully juggle personal activities and school work, so they are dependable and flexible. They work on group projects so they are collaborative. They babysit so they are dependable. Some are leaders at their summer camps or on their teams, so they have leadership skills. They wrote faith statements and analyzed scripture passages together in class, so they are critical thinkers and compassionate writers. All of them are quick learners and would pick up new skills quickly.

May God do a new thing among us, with us, as we welcome and listen to the 2019 Confirmation Class into membership at Kenilworth Union.