What if “overscheduled” was “committed?”
What if “busy” was “engaged?”
What if “decline” was “cooperation?”
One way to look at all the activities that vie for people’s time (and mostly get it) is as competition. Soccer competes with Confirmation. The debate tournament competes with the youth retreat. Church activities rarely come out ahead in the competitive view, and church leaders can become bitter.
Another way to look at all that lacrosse, theater, and family vacationing is as engagement in things that matter, as teenagers and their parents choosing physically and mentally difficult, very often team-based, activities that demand high levels of commitment, and to choose cheering over crying about it.
But they’re not coming to church things because of all those other things! Right. It used to be that church was a main driver of young peoples’ social engagement, but that was at a time when the options for young people to engage in things was far more limited than it is today, especially for girls. My students are on rock climbing teams. Rock climbing teams? There were no such things when I was a teenager.
The increase of options for young people in their communities is a good thing. Those of us who work with them have a chance to enhance young peoples’ lives in ways most of those other options aren’t doing, but we can do that with appreciation for them instead of competition.