*In his book Crossing Over, author and pastor Paul Scanlon challenges his readers to identify what they don’t want before considering what they do want. After observing our youth ministry and other youth ministries around us I came up with a list of seven things I didn’t want our youth ministry to be. I follow each observation with a statement of what I do want to see.
Youth Churches with empty seats and extra space always available; where semi-permanent walls are used to make the room appear full.
Well this observation in particular hits home with me. I have been living this observation out for several years now. Our youth ministry service takes place in the main auditorium at our church. Our auditorium can seat at max capacity probably just over 400 people and that’s packing it full.
So for years we’ve been coming up with ways to make it feel full on our youth nights. We haven’t been able to fill it literally so we are left to make it feel full.
I have no objection to this on the surface, it makes for a fun and exciting atmosphere when students feel close together and packed in.
My frustration is that we’ve had to produce this excitement and anticipation by putting up corrugated tin walls that shrink the room to fit the students that show up each week.
I would love to have to show our service on video screens in different parts of the church because the auditorium is too full for anyone else to come in.
I long for the day when our students can’t wait to get to service and get a seat for themselves and the six other people they brought with them that night. I can see it my mind’s eye already, can you?
I can see students coming to meet with God and each other.
I can see students packing a room to worship God with all that is in them.
I see students who are hungry to be transformed by God’s Grace and incredible love.
I see students that are eager to see the friends they brought experience forgiveness and respond to the truth.
Jesus actually faced crowd issues as well, take a look at Luke 5:1-3:
One day as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, great crowds pressed in on him to listen to the word of God. He noticed two empty boats at the water’s edge, for the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. Stepping into one of the boats, Jesus asked Simon, its owner, to push it out into the water. So he sat in the boat and taught the crowds from there.
In my nine of years of ministry I’ve yet to see an empty chair get saved, worship, be filled with the Spirit, give in an offering, or serve in the church.
It’s time our youth ministries become places where the empty chairs are driven to extinction.
…the Youth Church I see is one with no walls. Not just literally, but figuratively as well. It is jam packed with young people who come expecting God to change their lives and the lives of others. I see a youth ministry that is faced with running back to back youth services to accommodate all the young people that are coming.