Afraid To Do Church At Church
While at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference I heard a couple people in different situations mention something that I’ve been wrestling with. And I know that this isn’t a typical venue for discussion. Typically this is more of a “here’s some info”, “here’s something to think about”, or “here’s a resource” and then you just do with it whatever you want. But this post isn’t so much a declaration of some kind of truth or some kind of ground breaking idea. It’s more of sharing my heart on an issue and hoping that there are others out there struggling with the same thing and ones that could share in this discussion.
The issue is not feeling like you can do ministry at a church building. I know this train of thought has been around for a while but I’ve encountered it more lately. If you haven’t come across this or don’t know what I’m talking about, the basic idea is that you can’t do effective ministry at a church building because teenagers (and some adults) feel uncomfortable at church. They say that when people who aren’t Christians are at a church they feel uneasy. They feel like they can’t be themselves. They feel like they have to be “good” or “fake”.
In some ways I can understand why a person would worry about this. Many church buildings are old buildings with a lot of ornate fixtures and there are even some “off-limits” rooms. This causes some to feel more like they’re at a library or a museum than at God’s house. (maybe they feel like they’re at their grandma’s house minus the plastic covered furniture)
But is this a true perception? Is this just something that those of us on the “inside” think that non-Christians feel? If this perception is true, do we just accept it and do our best to get away from the building?
Now, let me say that in my ministry, we do have groups that meet in homes on Sunday nights. We do that for a number of reasons but one of the biggest reasons is to create a comfortable, open feeling. So, in that way I understand this idea of feeling more comfortable elsewhere. But what are we saying to people and specifically to our teens when we say that we can’t do effective ministry at the church building. When we feel like we have to go to Starbucks or to the mall or someone’s house…what are we saying about the church building? Are we hurting the effectiveness of our programs that are at our buildings? I mean, more than likely, you have at least one program, and it’s probably your big, crowd program that is at your church building. And if you feel like you can’t effectively minister and connect with teenagers at that place, then your program is going to suffer.
Here’s the bottom line for me: we all don’t have nice, new buildings and we don’t all need them. But we should all recognize the privilege and the blessing that it is to have a place to call home for our ministries. If you feel like you can’t minister effectively there, then either you’ve got issues you need to work on and get past or you need to find a way to better utilize this ministry tool that God has blessed you with.
A Little About Myself
My name is Joe Thompson and I'm the youth minister at Fairmount Christian Church in Mechanicsville, VA (just north of Richmond). I've been here for a little over 8 years. I work with 6th-12th grade.
I'm married with one kid. My wife's name is Beth and my son's name is Brennen (he's almost 5 months old!).
I'm looking forward to this course. I'm the kind of person who is constantly looking to tweak and improve the things that I do and also myself. I'll admit that I'm sort of an introverted-extrovert (I love people but I enjoy being the lone ranger too) so doing a course like this with a lot of group interaction is always a stretch for me. But I also always find that this is one of the best ways to learn and grow.
So, can't wait for the first call next week!