Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Youth Meeting With No Youth

Last week, I attended a youth meeting at which there were no youth. It was a church association meeting and the attendance was fairly good. There were elders who filled every position that the youth would’ve filled, so the meeting went so well that you wouldn’t even notice that there weren’t any youth present. I think it is worth noting that we met in a building that was once a two room school house, until the little farm schools were consolidated and the Missionary Baptists took possession of the building.

The more I think about that, the more it disturbs me. When I was a teenager, I was the president of that same youth organization, so I speak of it fondly. Since I was the only youth at our church that was the only “youth group” I had. That’s probably why local associations started having youth meetings in the first place. The association of churches could provide something for youth that a tiny church could not. Isn’t that why we have SOAR in the BMAA? No one BMAA church would put on something like that for their youth, but combined we can. For me, serving as president of the Youth in the Harvest and “giving parts” gave me experience that I cherish now. I would like to see all churches get their youth involved in something like that. But what I experienced last week highlights a problem that exists among churches.

A youth meeting is intended to minister to youth, is it not? The purpose of having officers isn’t to conduct business, but rather to give youth an opportunity to learn in an environment in which they can’t do too much damage. So, why were there officers there on a night when there were no youth present? It’s like a city bus that keeps running the route, even when there are no riders.

So often, Christians keep doing stuff because that’s the way it’s been done. If you do something enough, you can keep doing it after forgetting the original purpose. No youth will serve as president, so an adult fills the slot, then it happens with the treasurer, and then the secretary. Soon, adults are doing it all, and no one even notices that the youth didn’t show up. That isn’t far removed from what happens with meeting places. At one time, it made sense for a church building to be located near a few farms, because people had to walk to church. Now, it is a small thing for people to drive several miles to attend church.

When you think about it, the fact that churches and schools were once in the same building ought to tell us something when we consider how far children travel to school now. Those little farm schools were consolidated into schools that are in town, but there are many churches that are still trying to make a go of getting people to come to a building off on a side road somewhere. In some cases, the members are attached to the building or they are attached to the church. They’ll keep trying to make it work till the bitter end, even though they are in the same mission field as several other churches that teach similar doctrine. If we could start fresh, we would probably plant one church with one pastor near a school, rather than five churches with five pastors on rural roads.

I’m not in favor of just calling an end to something, but I do think we would be wise to consider the purpose behind some of the things we’ve been doing for a long time. It should shock us when we show up at a youth meeting and there are no youth there. The purpose is to teach youth, and there’s no reason why it can’t do that. But rather than adults filling in for the youth when they aren’t there, the absence of youth should tell the adults that they need to go find some youth. Perhaps we need five churches within a few miles of each other, but the decision should be based on the people those churches have an opportunity to reach, not on the desire to keep a building or to retain a church name.

The same goes for ministries within a church. Are we doing something just because that’s what we’ve always done or because that’s how someone taught us to do it? Or are we doing something because we can see how it is accomplishing a purpose in the lives of people. If what we do has no impact on people, something needs to change.