|Summers ruled at FUMC-Kissimmee!|
In the real world, there are lots and lots of teenagers whose primary need for us as a church is to rescue them from their family and find them a new home in the family of God. I hope that you have many of these students involved in your youth ministries; if not, that is a whole separate concern. For these youth the special days that we think of as "family days" are often times of depression and pain. There are no Mother's Day lunches or Sunday after Thanksgiving family gatherings. There are no family Super Bowl parties. There are no summer vacation family trips. In this broken and sinful world, these families barely survive. For many of their teenage children, youth group is the one place they can feel the love and acceptance so many of us feel at home. So what do many of us do on these most painful of occasions? We close our doors.
It's my belief that we have arrived at this place through some faulty thinking. Many churches have begun to plan their ministries to avoid times when people might have conflicts. It seems logical. The thinking errors come when we begin to worry more about who will not be there than who will be! When we do this, we begin to make the kids who NEED us to open the doors feel like the man at the psychiatrist's office who was told he was, "a paranoid schizophrenic who needs to be institutionalized immediately." When he said he wanted a second opinion, the doctor replied, "OK- I think you're ugly too!" The very students who will almost never be out of town and who almost never have family events on Sundays are the very youth we need to be reaching for Jesus.
Every ministry is different, and I would never presume to tell anyone how to best minister to their own students. But I will tell you this- some of the very best things that ever happened at youth groups in my 28 years of ministry happened at times when many choose not to meet. We had breakthrough sessions talking about parents on Mother's and Father's Days. We had amazing (and quite memorable) Super Bowl parties. Our "No Turkey Thanksgiving Feast" on the Sunday after Thanksgiving was a grand tradition. Our massive summer calendars (75 days of programs in a 80 day period at a couple of locations) worked well for two reasons. One, we made the big events so important (and so well advertised so far in advance) that our families who did travel planned around them. And two, we planned most of the events assuming we would have smaller crowds, thereby eliminating any "numbers disappointment" and allowing time for relationships to be built. Summers were what set us apart from the other churches in town because all of the "fringe" kids knew we would be open for business when no one else was! We were a place they could belong. And isn't that what every teenager is looking for?
I hope you will take one thing away from this rant- when you sit down to plan your 2011-12 youth calendars, remember those who have no place else to "belong" when you close your doors. Plan for them, because they are the lost and least Jesus calls us to find. I could list 100 youth from my past who would sound a loud AMEN to that. Come back tomorrow when I yell "GET OFF MY LAWN!" at some young youth pastors. Hehe.....
Because of Jesus,