Grown-up Church

ranch-1983If everything I know about church was learned in youth group, I’d be inclined to think that:

  • Church should be a good mix of games, singing, a short devotion, and pizza.
  • Accountability is meeting with a “grownup” who asks me if I’ve been reading my Bible.
  • Socially, it’s easier to be a big fish in the “small pond” of church.
  • All the hype is to get me in the door. This all happens for me.
  • Discipleship happens through events and programs- Camp, Mission Trip, Lock-ins, Disciple Now Weekends.
  • Spiritual maturity is measured in terms of event attendance.
  • The space in which we meet is very important.
  • Evangelism means inviting my unbelieving “friends” to church.
  • Missions is backyard Bible clubs with poor kids one week every summer.

I’m not against youth ministry. But I suspect a generation (or two!) of pastors and church leaders who are products of youth group have heavily influenced the way church is done. So we’ve traded “pizza, games, singing and a short devotion” with, well, “donuts, drama, singing and a slightly longer devotion.” But the idea is the same- events, programs, attraction, and t-shirts are not what church is about.

We need to grow up.

Grown up doesn’t mean boring. It’s not the opposite of attractive. Grown-up church is unabashedly intrusive. It’s boldly personal. It’s radically Christ-centric. It fills in the gaps between “mountaintop experiences.” It replaces accountability groups with discipling relationships. It moves beyond “lend a helping hand” mission trips to entire churches taking spiritual accountability for unbelieving people groups. Grown-up church survives economic recession, moral failure on the part of the leadership, tragedy, marginalization, and persecution.

Is your church growing? Is it growing up?

2 thoughts on “Grown-up Church

  1. Ernest,

    I may be the exception to the rule…I don’t know if it was the church I was in, the calling of God on my life at an early age, the people I hung out with or a combination of them all.

    I remember in a discipleship training class when I as 7 that I said, “it’s time I got baptized.” Two weeks later I walked the aisle and made my profession of faith. I had my first study Bible when I was not yet a teenager, my first commentary at 12, and was regularly watching Charles Stanley on TV and taking notes. I even studied my sunday school lesson as a teenager with my commentary!

    I had an uncle who discipled m and a 25 yr old who would eventually go into ministry that hung out with me and mentored me as a 12-18 yr old. When I was 15, a couple took our youth discipleship training class through DiscipleYouth, a discipleship program that was MasterLife for students. I would be the only one to finish both terms out of 15. I was teaching sunday school at 17 or so and adult discipleship classes at the same time. That couple would be called into ministry, give up a nice engineering job and go to seminary. In fact, the husband’s first sermon was the night I knew God called me into ministry.

    We didn’t do a lot of games or retreats or weekend stuff…we just shared life together. I know it’s different 20 years later. Culture is different, we need to teach in a way that is best for folks.

    But in doing youth ministry during college and seminary, as well as spending almost 5 years in campus ministry in college, the greatest impact came through life together. I had the privilege of leading 2 MasterLife groups in college. All but one of those 7 guys ended up in ministry full-time at some point and the one who didn’t is so involved in his church he might as well be.

    I remember coming home from summer missions in college, at age 19, and our campus ministry had a let’s-reconnect-before school-starts-back party at a home. I remember how a small group of 5 quickly turned into a group of 25 college kids sitting around a table and on the floor as we answered questions about God, about our fears, our hopes, and life in general. That group was a unique group during the next 3 years of our college existence.

    Maybe that’s why I will never lead the masses. I’m too concerned about investing int the 25-40 and believing they will change the world. Of course, I guess that lack of games and pizza and parties is also why I didn’t make a good youth minister, though I did some incredible things happen with some of those kids…

    Oh well…sorry for my rambling…

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