A couple months ago, a generous anniversary gift landed a well equipped camera in our living room. It came right at the beginning of the summer, so I was able to use it for several weeks of experimenting on youth trips. (The timing was great because I was able to cajole one of my shutter-bug kids to show me what many of the different settings could do.)
One of the coolest capabilities that I’ve discovered is that, with a few adjustments, I can take pictures at night like the one above. When I took it at camp, it was about 11:00 at night in the Black Hills. It was dark. But even in the darkness, brilliance is there waiting to be revealed.
You can only capture that brilliance though, by leaving the shutter open. Instead of a quick “snap”, and the moment is captured, the light is allowed in for a lot longer. The problem is, this leaves you vulnerable to a lot of things going wrong. The tiniest movement will screw up the focus… someone walking by becomes a blurred mess…
I’m still connecting all the dots here, myself, but I think part of why this night-time picture taking is so fascinating to me is because it’s revealing what can’t be seen normally… like my life. I’ve spent the better part of the last 20 years thinking, praying, studying, and working out how to unleash potential in students and in the church. It’s a potential that normal people don’t see. Normal people ask me how I do it. “How do you have the energy to spend all that time with teenagers?” “How do you get those kids to work like that?” “How did you know they were ready to handle the responsibility?”
The only thing I can think of is that Jesus has set my shutter to stay open a little longer than normal, so when I peer into the darker areas of youth culture and my students’ lives, I see more than shades of gray. I see brilliance and potential – possibilities and promise.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about why Millennials are leaving the church. There’s a lot of conflicting information and conjecture mixed into the discussion, and I don’t want to add any more, but I wonder a few things:
- In the churches they’re leaving, did anyone help them see the potential they have to contribute to God’s Kingdom?
- Was that potential welcomed and unleashed, or set aside and told to wait its turn?
- In the absence of a church experience that was fulfilling, are they really walking away from Jesus or could they be searching for new and meaningful ways to be His Body?
- If they are indeed seeking new ways to be the hands and feet of Jesus in their world today, who will help them find those ways?
This may seem to be a bit of a random connection, and like I said, I’m still waiting for this idea to more fully develop, but would you imagine with me a church full of millennials who were connected in fruitful mentoring relationships with those of us with a little more experience? Will you open your shutter long enough to see the potential and be vulnerable enough to lead them to unleash that potential for the good of His Kingdom first?