On Monday, I took some of our kids to a youth rally about an hour away. The youth rally was part of a traveling summer series around the area in some of the smaller congregations. We actually missed the first two sessions, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. We had six show up to come with me, which was actually more than I was expecting. These kids are great and I have loved getting to know them better.
The theme of the series was “No Compromise” coming from the stories in Daniel; Monday’s lesson was “No Compromise in Service to God” using Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. After the singing, the preacher (I later found out he was from a congregation in Tennessee) got up and introduced the sermon. He started off with a fictional story about a baseball team in a tournament and they were about to find out that the final game of the championship was to be on Sunday night. He asked the kids “what would you [and the other Christians on the team] do?” and I immediately saw a disconnect between the preacher and the kids. The main point of the lesson was that the three in the story didn’t compromise their beliefs to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar, so we shouldn’t tell God that “You can have Sunday mornings, but give me Sunday nights. Or I’ll study the bible on Tuesday nights, but give me Wednesday nights.” I’ll go ahead and mention that I do not disagree with the importance of meeting together on Sunday nights, but there were a couple of things that were beginning to bug me and I’ll get to those in a second. He went on to ask the question that when it came time to choose between meeting at the building on Sunday nights and going to the baseball game, where would God be? He literally said “God is not at the ball field.”
I understand his intended message, and I know he meant well.
He said non-Christians are watching us (so true) and they see when us skip church (lower-case) on Sunday or Wednesday nights, they see that we aren’t any different or special and by skipping, we will “Never bring our teammates to Christ.”
Some of the teens from my group left feeling very guilty about being on different sports teams. One girl said that most of her teammates are Christians and they have a prayer and a devotional before each game. We’ve been studying the early Church in our class and I reminded her that her and her teammates are the Church. They’re the Church that is out in the community; what a good place for the Church to be! Christians are meant to always be with each other, not just during the “next appointed time,” so that people can see Christ’s example of Love, Forgiveness, Patience, etc.
On the way home, I started thinking about all of the statistics of the Church; how we lose close to 50% of our college-age Christians after they graduate. They fall away.
We’re doing something wrong.
I really think that instead of guilting teens into making sure they come to all of the gatherings, we should create an environment where they want to be apart of a living Church. For this group, it’s really been just getting them used to being with each other.
Guilt only motivates someone to do something reluctantly; it’s hard to get excited about something when you’re only doing it out of guilt. If someone is coming to church out of guilt, what’s to keep that person coming once that feeling of guilt is gone?
If a teen feels valued and loved and important and a part of something BIG, they’re going to keep coming and spending time with the Body.