‘Articulate’: The Fast-Moving Description Game

Alan Williamson

I do not know if you have ever played ‘Articulate’? The object of the game is to describe as many different words, without using the actual word, in the shortest possible time. This game reminds me a lot about of how we share the Gospel with young people in our context in Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh.

Our diocesan youth work is called YKEA. We try to gather, support and encourage young people through community, to find out more about God’s mission for their lives and to support them in discipleship and journeying in faith. Many of our young people live in dispersed rural areas.

Articulating faith to hand it onto a new generation is something that we, in the Church of Ireland, speak about a lot. At General Synod, the debate regarding the Church of Ireland Youth Department’s report is often one of the most eagerly and enthusiastically spoken to reports.

In discussion with other church members, we articulate the need to do more, we discuss the way forward. We often articulate our frustrations at young people, we place the blame for declining attendances in churches and lack of engagement in traditional church activities at their door.

When we talk of how things are not as they once were, is there a challenge to us who seek to hand on the faith? It is the challenge to consider what, and how, we communicate the powerful and transformative message of faith in Christ.

I have been asking myself a number of questions over the past few months:

  • When we talk to young people about faith, do we talk of the church, do we talk of an organisation? Or do we articulate something of the God who loves us, who transforms lives and who calls us into a community of faithful people?
  • Do we need a defined role to articulate faith to young people?
  • When are the times to articulate our faith most effectively to young people?
  • What are the places that are easily accessible for us to use as opportunities to articulate our faith?

In answering these questions, I think we see something of what the Bible has to say to us about sharing faith. In my experience, getting alongside young people is actually not the role of any one specialist.
Our youth workers and volunteers can help. We can help to flesh out the journey for young people but, for them to catch a real sense of the Christian message, it needs to be integrated into their daily life journeys. Therefore, passing on the baton has to fall on all of us.

Young people, in my experience, develop a foundation in faith through engagement with parents, teachers and neighbours who share and – more importantly – demonstrate authentic aspects of faith.
Faith is not just handed on in the church building: it is handed on in the home, school, farm yard, business, shop and mart. It is handed on through those who care. It is handed on by those who articulate their faith in a grounded, real and humble way.

Effective articulation does not need to be a fine preach or a theological treatise, but it does need to be real in the faces, words and lives of those sharing it. Earthed words and actions have much more impact on the hearts and minds of young people. Unlike the game ‘Articulate’, we have to mention the name of God in our interactions.

Young people desire to feel part of communities. They are very quick to know if what is being shared with them is real in the person sharing it. They find hypocrisy hard to reconcile.

We all need to take responsibility for handing on the faith in a real way. This challenges us to question our words and actions, not only in those formal situations when we have contact with the young people around us, but also in informal – and often more effective – moments such as in the midst of daily work, home and school life.

I cannot help but come to the conclusion that the call to hand on the faith is simply a call to each and everyone of us. It is a call to ground the faith in the reality of daily life and daily places. It is a call to walk alongside the young people we know in a grounded manner and to talk honestly about the God who has transformed our lives through his grace and love.

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