You are going to have to give me some license here as this metaphor has some faults, but I love it. I think our youth ministry should be aiming to keep the rumour of God, and God’s love, alive in the ears, mouths and hearts of the young people that cross our paths.
I love the idea that we would be spreading a rumour of God to our young people that might prompt further questions. Amongst many of the rumours at school that may or may not have been true, someone occasionally steps in (usually with some guts) to verify or deny its validity. In my case, one school day, that person was my friend Steven Johnson (who always was brave enough). He asked Mr Anderson in Art class whether it was true that he was gay ‘cos rumour has it, Sir, that you are’. It turns out that it was true, which gave space to many more conversations, questions and discussions, some public and some private, some helpful and some less so – but all of that kept the subject alive and relevant.
By keeping the rumour alive we are sharing the story that has been shared with us, and helping young people to find a framework or space in which to make some sense of what is happening to them.
Whatever they are experiencing, be it confusion, pain or joy and celebration, they might be able to turn to or remember the rumour, even hear the whisper of unconditional love, and ask the question, ‘is that true'
We share the story of God’s love in all areas of our lives, whether we are walking down the street, at the youth club or in the church corridor. This is keeping the Love of God that Deuteronomy refers to on our hearts.
Sharing this story of love is pivotal in helping young people find ‘place’, a place to belong, that they feel some sort of ownership and care for, a place that is safe and welcoming, and a place that enables growth, development and failure. We offer young people this when we welcome them in the spaces we inhabit, and as we share stories with them, they become places that young people see and hear about the rumour of God. Some will ask questions and others will listen to the answers. Some will move on without asking questions (to us at least). Some will believe the rumour, some deny it. Some will keep the rumour to themselves, and some will become those spreading the rumour.
Our role is to carry on whispering the stories and keeping the rumour of God’s existence, and love, alive.