I grew up in a pastor’s home. We were in church every Sunday morning. . . and several other times during the week. On Sunday mornings, the pews at our church were filled with everyone from wimpering (or screaming babies), to kids, to young adults, to middle-aged people, to old ladies (yes. . . I can still smell the pungent mixture of perfumes). One thing I remember about Sunday morning worship is that I usually found it to be incredibly boring. Consequently, I wasn’t a big fan of being there in “big church.”
But as the years marched by, I began to “get it” . . . “it” being something transcendent and beautiful about the Body of Christ and what it meant to be together, to sometimes do the same things week after week (prayers, creeds, other recitations), to relate to each other, to get to know each other, and to learn from each other. I didn’t know it at the time, but God was active and busy doing something in my life that today we would call “spiritual formation.”
And so, I always feel a bit of uneasiness when I talk to youth workers and pastors whose corporate worship model is one where the full breadth and width and depth and diversity of the local Body of Christ is not present together in worship. Even though our motivation may be good, the methodology we’ve chosen might actually be doing more to divide than unite. And, it might be nurturing kids into “worship is for me” rather than “worship if for God” mentality that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. Make sense?
I’m convinced that one of the reasons so many teenagers and young adults are walking away from the heritage of their faith is that we haven’t given them a complete heritage. Many of our kids have a church experience that’s filled with nothing but worship, classes, youth group, and activities with peers of the same age. They haven’t worshipped intergenerationally with people of all ages. Nor have they been in social situations with the older members of the church. What happens is that we not only socialize them into thinking that anything related to their faith is only relevant when experienced with people of like age, but we’ve robbed them of those opportunities to experience life in the larger body of Christ which allow them to benefit from the full breadth of gifts, ages, wisdom, experience, and abilities of the people that make up the church.
Our teens’ spiritual maturity is best-fed, grown, and cemented into maturity when fellowship is broad-based, rather than with just their peers.