*The final post in a series called The Youth Church I See.
Have you ever watched Discovery channel or Animal Planet and seen the way a mother bird feeds her chicks? I know you have, picture it for a moment, the mother gets the worm chews it up and then spits it back into the open mouths of her little ones. The little chicks are all making noise and stretching their necks and heads in hopes of getting enough to eat. It’s a pretty gross yet necessary process that helps these little birds survive and grow.
We’ve also all seen the human version of this feeding frenzy. If you’re lucky, you’ve only seen the bottle version. If you’re not, well… I’m just going to say it’s not as beautiful as some people say it is. In either instance, the little baby is completely dependent that food be fed to them. They must be burped and soon after must have their diaper changed. Little children, like young animals must be nurtured and fed to survive. They don’t have the skills to thrive on their own. They need the TLC that parents provide them.
Unfortunately this nurturing and nursing process can occasionally drag on far too long. In high school I worked for a lady that told her entire staff of servers and hosts that she breast-fed her son until his 5th birthday! Now that is crazy. It seems like a case of being too nurturing. At some point children must learn to feed themselves, right?
I’m tired of seeing youth churches run this way…
Youth Church in which students depend on their leadership to tell them what to do; youth churches where leadership exists solely to entertain and feed the students.
I fully understand and embrace the idea that we need to reach unchurched students and nurture new believers, but at what point do we quit nursing them? At what point do we stop spoon feeding? At what point do we quit spitting food into our students open mouths?
The Bible has lots to say about maturing in Christ. Can’t you hear the frustration in the author of Hebrews voice when they write these words:
There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong. (Hebrews 5:11-14)
How about these words from Paul when he gives the job description of pastors and leaders in the church:
Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-12)
This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. (Ephesians 4:13-15)
As leaders it is our responsibility to lead. Wow, profound I know. Many of us are busy nursing and coddling students who need to begin to feed themselves. We are hampering their growth when we continue to spoon feed them.
As a dad I know first hand, we are currently allowing Hailey to feed herself, she uses her hands and it is a disaster! Food is everywhere but in her mouth where it belongs, but long-term it’s for the best. She has to learn to feed herself and so do our students. If they’re only feeding on God’s word once or twice a week when they’re in church then they are starving! Lead them, teach them to consume God’s word on their own. We cannot afford to have youth ministries full of spiritually anorexic students.
…the Youth Church I see has young people who know and live out their purpose. They are not full of religion, rather full of hope for their generation and the world around them. I see a youth church where students are released and empowered to be exactly who God has called them to be.
Do our students really know their purpose? Are we instructing and inspiring them to make an impact? We use this verse so often at youth, I’m sure they have it memorized by now.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Enough writing about the youth church I see, now it’s time to build it…