“People are too busy” justifies the status quo. A narrative of busyness discourages risk and connection because we decide out-of-hand that people are already overbooked. A midweek gathering of youth for community building and faith formation sounds great, but who has the time?
We need to poke around inside this busy claim a little bit. How busy are people, really? And how many of them? Surely some of them have said yes to soccer and theater and AP Calculus to the point that they couldn’t fit another activity, even if they wanted to. I’m pretty sure I’m overestimating how many of my people are in that particular boat, though. I’m also pretty sure I’m too contentedly abandoning people to that boat as it sinks.
The risk of inviting busy people to connect is that they will be unable to consider your invitation for all the better ones they’ve already received, and you will feel rejected. They’re good people. They like the idea. They looooove you. They just can’t make the time out of all the other good ideas and great people they’re already committed to. That you can make the time? Right, there’s the risk: the conclusion that you must not have anything more important to do.
Those who work with busy teenagers literally have nothing more important to do than invite them into connection: with their peers; with adults who are interested in them; with a religious tradition and its texts and habits; with their selves; with God. This is what we have to be working on.
Even amidst the busiest communities, there will always be a hunger for this, and abandoning people to their busyness is an abdication of our calling. There are teenagers in the bustling crowd who are searching for connection and belonging. We fail them if we allow their peers’ busyness to drive all our programming.
We also fail their overextended peers when we defer to that activity load and choose not to plan new things, because they may be looking for deeper and more authentic community. They may care more about learning to love their neighbor than they care about learning how to get into Harvard, they just don’t have the invitation to prove it yet.