"What do you want to be when you grow up?" It's a question we all were probably asked as kids and have asked the young people in our lives many, many times. But as an educator who specializes in faith formation, it's not a question I'm particularly interested in, for a few reasons. First and foremost is that it's a question rooted in capitalistic expectations—even though we don't say so out loud, what we really mean when we ask it is "What profession do you plan to seek?" We don't ask it expecting to hear things like "When I grow up, I want to be happy, kind, faithful, a good friend," etc. We want to know now what our young people will do to make themselves of value to society when they are grown, which points to my second concern—the fact that it is oriented only toward the future. I prefer to center who our youngest members are now. What brings them joy? What fills them with righteous anger? What do they feel God is calling them to today? These are the things that I seek to know, not just about the young people in our midst, but about all with and to whom I minister.
Scripture is clear that children are holy not just because of what they might contribute to society later, but because they are reflections of God's face and members of Christ's body, just as they are right now. And scripture is clear that even the youngest among us have calls to ministry, as do people of every age. Those of us who work in Christian education and faith formation are in a unique position to equip congregations, especially the young people in congregations, to find their passions, identify areas of giftedness, and to hone in on what God is saying to them as individuals and community members.
It has also been my experience that it is often the youngest and eldest members of our communities whose vocational leanings hold the most prophetic wisdom for communities as they seek to suss out where God is pointing them in times of transition or stress. The visions and dreams God grants them are of great value to the entire community and the ways in which they are called to serve have much to teach us. How might their love for grandchildren or grandparents be speaking to us about how God is calling us to see one another? How might their joy and vigor—or the steady devotion with which they attend school, work, or hobbies—be pointing us toward a theology of commitment? How might their gifts for service be pointing toward the areas of the world's woundedness where God is calling us to be a balm? It is in taking seriously the vocations of those that create the least capital that we can step boldly into the places where God has the most concern.