So, you’ve no doubt heard a story like it… a youth walks into church for the first time and commits a major crime—he is wearing a baseball cap. He doesn’t realize that it’s a crime, but in the eyes of a few of the older church goers it ranks up there with spitting your chewing tobacco on the church carpet and wearing a Marilyn Manson t-shirt. (Although here in Saskatchewan you could probably get away with the chewing tobacco.)
An old man sees the offending cap and approaches the young man and berates him for his indolence. The youth nonchalantly looks away but inside makes a vow of steel, “I will never go to anyplace like this again…ever.”
There are two things to consider here: 1. The young man’s mother has desperately prayed and cajoled her son to come to church. He finally gave in and this was the reception he found. This is an unmitigated disaster. 2. It is my contention that we can solve this problem in the future through good youth ministry.
Good youth ministry is about producing strong disciples of Jesus—we all agree on that. Good youth ministry also leads to good adult ministry. Our goal must be to not only produce strong youth who are followers of Jesus but to equip them to be strong adults who are followers of Jesus. The youth that we presently are ministering to must grow up to be the kind of adults that are welcoming to all newcomers, hatted or not.
So let me leave you with three thoughts:
We must work, with all our effort, to produce youth who understand what it means to follow Jesus, by grace through faith.
This is where the basics of the faith really must kick in. Christianity isn’t about outward appearances, it is about a changed heart. Following Jesus is all about him and his grace towards us. Youth who know this must grow up to be adults who live this out.
Are we producing youth who are adaptable?
Our youth must be equipped to follow Christ wherever they find themselves. Not that this is easy, it isn’t. However, our goal must be to build our youth into young adults who can follow Jesus wherever they find themselves. In a foreign land or in a pub, in a church with choirs or a church that serves donuts before the sermon.
Are we producing youth who welcome outsiders?
The adults of the future must understand that church is a place of community and grace, loving relationships and joy. We are welcoming—not blind to sin mind you, but welcoming all the same. Our Lord “welcomed sinners and ate with them” (Luke 15:1-2) and so should we. Whether a baseball cap is sin or not (it isn’t by the way) is a moot point, the issue is friendliness and warmth shown towards the newcomer. Let’s make sure we begin with our own house, our groups must be welcoming and friendly places, free of unhelpful cliques and anything that hinders the newcomer from getting to know us and our message. The sad things is, some of the youth in our churches may well be more mature than that elderly man who got so angry at the hatted youth.
Let’s make sure this never ever happens again.