On Wednesday 2nd November I attended the “how to get your kids through church without them hating God” tour organised by Rob Parsons and ‘Care for the Family’.
Read part 1 here
In part 2, Rob Parsons shared, what he considered to be, the five killers of young people’s faith.
1) over busyness
I remember trying to organise a meeting about a drama service that would be happening in the church in a few months time. Half the battle was trying to find a date that everyone could make. Each possible date was shot down because someone either had house groups or music practices, or women’s meetings or prayer groups or youth clubs or deacons meetings or…well you get the picture.
The same is true for our young people. each week they can attend church services, youth fellowship, badminton clubs, running clubs, house groups and music practices. How they manage to fit in socialising and school into that packed timetable is anyone’s guess.
And there in lies the problem. The church is too busy. There are too many meetings and activities that people can attend. Do we really need them all? Is that what being a Christian is about? Meetings.
Instead of spending our week going out to our neighbours and friends, we spend our time coming to things inside the church. The great commission tell us to go, not come. We want to fill up our young peoples nights with all sorts of church activities so that they aren’t out mixing with questionable young people. But that’s the point. I know a number of young people who have left the church youth work because they just can’t be bothered feeling guilty about not being able to make all the meetings.
I overheard a conversation between two parents complaining that other members of the church let their children go to football on a Sunday morning rather than come to church. What they didn’t mention is that these boys still come to youth fellowship on a sunday evening and house group on a wednesday evening! Let’s stop forcing our young people to attend every meeting in the church just because that’s what we do.
Being busy isn’t always a good thing.
2) hypocrisy (public holiness)
Jesus called a group of religious leaders ‘white washed tombs’. nice and clean and white on the outside but rotting and decaying on the inside. Harsh words eh? But true.
On one occasion whilst having dinner at a Pharisee’s house, he talked about cups and bowls. He spoke about how they (the jewish people) have all these rituals for washing that gives the appearance of cleanliness but on the inside, it’s a different story.
How do our young people see us? Do we put on ‘holiness’ when we go to church? Are we simply actors in a play? And then when we get home we remove the costumes and become ourselves again.
The church needs authenticity. I need authenticity. Young people need to see people who are authentic. Following Jesus isn’t about pretending everything is okay and that you are really holy. It’s about bringing what you have (your doubts, your pain, yourself) to the table before God.
I attended the Scottish Baptist Assembly a few weeks ago (i’ll hopefully get around to blogging about it before the next one) and was struck by what one of the speakers said. As Christians we spend too much time attending ‘anti’ protest rallies when we should be spending more time at ‘pro’ rallies.
Too often Christians are known by what they disagree with rather than what they agree with. We speak out frequently about the things we think are wrong instead of things things we think are right.
We should be a ‘pro’ people. Let us celebrate rather than condemn. Let’s spend more time talking to our young people about what we love rather than what we hate.
I can be a very cynical person. I’ll be honest about that. I try not to be but it’s hard. Cynicism is all around us. It’s talked about in our families, our friends, our churches, the media and our workplace.
“what’s the point in doing anything, this is just how it is”.
“there’s nothing new under the sun”.
Now I’m not naive. I know life can, and often is, harsh and cruel. And that should be embraced. We should not run away from that. But that should not mean that our lives are governed by those understandings.
I want hope. I want to believe that people can change. I want to believe that we are all created in the image of God and are not born corrupt. I want to believe that new things are waiting to be created. I want to believe that we can change things and I want to believe that God is a universalist.
Christianity is catergorised by hope but it looks like we’ve lost it. Let’s stop being cynical. Let’s believe in something better. Let’s believe in hope, faith and love.
“have we taken holy things for granted? Have we lost the wonder?”
This was tough and challenging to here.
I was recently told of an older member of the congregation, when on entering the church, complained that she doesn’t know what to expect when she comes in because we keep doing things differently. Isn’t that a good thing? Why is is that our default position is that of rigid routines and traditions?
Shouldn’t we be amazed when we come to church? Shouldn’t we expect God to show up?
I think we’ve misunderstood the concept that God is the same, yesterday, today and forever. That doesn’t mean that God is static and unchanging. God changes his mind. God shakes things up. God changes. And so should we. So should our services. But not just for the sake of it.
The biggest question for me when session 2 finished was how to we shape our services (and our youth work) to allow space for wonder without becoming too familiar?
What do you think?