Ray Bradbury once wrote a book entitled The Martian Chronicles. In it he tells the story of an Earth about to be ravaged by a nuclear war. One small family, in an effort to escape the impending holocaust, leave the planet in a small family-sized rocket for a new home on Mars. The parents, not wanting to worry their young son and daughter, tell the children they are simply going on a family picnic to Mars. If they are lucky, the father tells them, they might even see some Martians!
"But Father, "says the little boy, "There aren't any Martians left. They all died off a long time ago."
"Not all the Martians," says the father. "Not the kind we're looking for."
As the day goes on, the family ends up picnicking beside a pond and the children anxiously ask again when they might see the Martians. The father tells them "They're in the pond. Go and see for yourselves." The children look down into the water but are confused. "There's nothing here. Why, we just see ourselves. We just see our own reflections."
"That's right," says the mother. "You see...we're the Martians now. Whatever we are...that's what Martians will be."
When we work with youth in the Church, part of our challenge is to grow in their understanding of what it means to claim the identity "Christian." We can make up all the definitions in the world, quote scripture and reference church history, but when it comes right down to it, whatever WE are, that's what Christians will be. When we let others know we are Christians, they will define "Christian" at least in part by watching the things we do and say. Youth who take on the identity of "Christian" for themselves need to know the responsibility that comes with affirming that publicly.
My "go to" scripture passage when trying to give teens some sense of what it means to me to follow Jesus is Luke 4: 16-21 in which Jesus clearly lays out what he understands his mission to be, grounded in the scripture of his own tradition. Why not challenge your youth to name their own "go to" scripture for what they understand the mission of Christianity to be and then invite them to see what it would be like to live that verse daily as if they were wearing an "I am Christian" sticker for all to see?