Why Text and Talk works at Hammo

Every year on the weekend after Labor Day, the annual Youth Hammonassett camp out is held at, you guessed it, Hammonassett campground.  It's a weekend of music, speakers, cook outs, service projects, ultimate frisbee, etc.  I've been invited two years in a row.  Hmmm, wonder if I'll get an invite for next year.  Once again I held a Text and Talk with the Bish.  The format is simple.  I annoucne my cell phone number and invite 450 youth to text me any question.  Instantly, my phone lights up, and AT&T sends me messages that I've exceeded my data rate plan. (This year I got smart and grabbed an unlimited plan for the weekend)  I then answer a wide variety of questions, and the range looks something like this:

This is a good sample of the questions I am asked.  They range from even more absurd jokes about my motorcycle, questions about candy I have never heard of to the more serious faith questions.

I stand up there and randomly answer as many as I can in the 15 minute timeslot I'm given to respond.  

My answers range from silly to serious.

The challenge is to be quick, honest and true.  It ain't easy, but the challenge is great.  I know sometimes I stumble or ramble on, trying to answer questions about evil in the world in 30 seconds or less.  

How would you answer this last question on the left in a short time span, with basically no opportunity to reflect on how we understand the nature of God, a teenagers mind and the cultural context from which a question like this arises.

Mine goes "No, I don't think God sends nonbelievers to hell, because God is not in that business.  Plus it's not about what we believe, it's about the fact that God believes in us."

I received 308 text messages, and obviously I did not have time to answer them, so this week, I'm taking a little time here and there to answer questions by text messaging.

The kids love it.  Why?

Several reasons:  

1.  I'm not telling them to deny the reality of the world they live in by condemning social media or text messaging.  Actually, I'm embracing it.  They appreciate it.

2.  I may be having fun with them, even a little silly, but I remain the adult in the room.  In other words, when I answer their questions honestly, they appreciate and respect me. 

3.  It's interactive.  We no longer live in a world of presentations, we live in a world of engagement.

4.  I'm completely vulnerable, and they appreciate the risk I am taking.  They see me goof up, struggle, and when I don't know, well, they like that I don't know.

Then there is some other chemistry thing that happens, some kind of Holy Spirit moment, something I don't understand.  That happens too, and I don't understand it, but I live into the mystery of the Grace that passes all understanding.