Kwan Jung, a Chinese Scholar of the 3rd Century BC, said: “If you want to get a result in a year, you plant crops. If you want to see the outcome in ten years, plant a tree. And if you want to get a good result in one hundred years, you educate a child.”
This suggests that educating a person is not a short-term investment or something that can be achieved through cheap labour. Nevertheless, it is worth a great effort!
Recently, I went to an annual retreat of Uniting Church School Chaplains in our Synod. Knox Grammar school, MLC (Methodist Ladies College), Newington College, PLC (Pymble Ladies College), Ravenswood Girls School and Kinross Wolaroi School (in Orange) all have very dedicated ministers as their chaplains.
On the way, I received a text from the retreat’s organiser saying that one of the chaplains would be unable to join us because something had happened to one of his students. We were asked to pray for the chaplain and his school community. I was more than impressed by the close network of our school chaplains and the supportive sharing they demonstrated throughout the retreat.
As a former school teacher, I can tell you that working in a school environment is not easy. It is doubly hard for our school chaplains despite having a captive audience of 18,000 people in their ministry context (that’s close to half of the entire average church attendance in our Synod).
After two days with these chaplains, I was deeply convinced of the special calling of our school chaplains and their commitment to their schools, students and colleagues. The important understanding they all shared was that their efforts in planting a seed of good news into the heart of children may not bring an obvious outcome in their life time, but the harvest may come to fruition any time in the next 100 years!
One of the dilemmas that we, the institutional churches, face is we are becoming too short-sighted in our response to our next generation. We don’t see many children, so we cut down our focus on children and youth ministry. Out of sight, out of mind! Because there aren’t many children and young people in our churches each week, we cut back on relevant resources or we don’t even train people for ministry with children and young people.
If we value our life in relationship with God and have a pride in our discipleship — despite the cost of following Jesus — our priority should be pretty clear when we are considering where we might put our energy, our commitment and our economic resources.
Recently, I went to an exciting interfaith event called Youth PoWR (Parliament of World’s Religions). It was a gathering of young people from all walks of faith: Aboriginal spirituality, Baha’i, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Judaism, Latter Day Saints. Eight young speakers shared their passion and concerns for a more compassionate and just society — and it was almost impossible to differentiate their various faith backgrounds.
British poet William Wordsworth wrote, “The child is father to the man.” Surely the young people of all faiths have something great to teach us, perhaps even somewhere new and exciting to lead us.
As a mother of two young adults and as a Uniting Church minister, I would have more confidence in the future if we were more open in our awareness of the value of education and more determined to listen to our young people — in churches and society — in their desire for a more compassionate, just world.
I have registered myself as a volunteer for Yuróra 2017. The future church of our children and young people will be different to ours. But we have faith in Jesus who is the same yesterday, today and forever and who will surely draw our children and young people, just as he called us to himself.