“As the Father is sending me, so I am sending you…” – Jesus (John 20:21)
This is not going to be a subtle, clever, insightful post. Really, I’m just going to state the obvious. The best place to connect with kids who don’t go to church is pretty much anywhere away from the church. And a really great time to do that is Sunday morning. Because on Sunday morning, unchurched kids are not at church. For that matter, unchurched people are usually not at church on Sunday morning.
Maybe I’m stating the obvious because I am slow. And I also know that many “churched” people are out on Sunday mornings, too because of work, family, play, exhaustion, burn-out, etc. And I also know that many unchurched people are already following Jesus but can’t/haven’t/don’t want to join a local congregation. And I know many churches meet at times other that Sundays. But I think my point still stands. If you want to connect with people who have no church, go away from your church during the times your church usually gathers. You’ll probably find some.
For thirty years now, I’ve been leading in churches. A lot of that was in youth ministry or in support of youth ministry. The churches I was a part of were pretty evangelistic when it came to youth. We wanted to have good ministry for our own kids and we wanted kids who didn’t have a church to come into our church’s youth ministry. We did that because we loved Jesus, loved kids, and wanted kids to love Jesus. But when the task of gathering kids was hard – and it was usually hard – I was pretty good at looking at the cultural competition of sleeping in, out door activities, sports leagues, clubs, etc. that seemed to encroach on church times. I was not alone. Our culture doesn’t particularly favor church activity anymore. Still, I don’t know why it never occurred to me that I was missing the obvious. If we really wanted to connect with unchurched kids, a great way to do it would be to go out and away from the church building at our usual church gathering times.
Objections? Of course. Gathering together as a church is important and we need to keep that habit, promote that habit, and pass it on. We need to gather regularly for practical reasons. If we don’t schedule gatherings, people won’t gather. But when we only gather to worship, to learn, to read scripture, to pray, and to be with one another, we’ve missed out on something powerful: gathering to go out, gathering for mission. It is very easy for people outside our churches to watch what we do and get the impression that being a Christian is about going to meetings to do boring stuff. (Are they right?) Well, we were made and are being re-made for more that that.
In Luke 6:12-19, Jesus is up on mountain praying. And then, still on the mountain, he names the twelve disciples so that he can be with them. Prayer, worship, Bible Study, time with other disciples, hmm, that sort of describes Sunday morning church gathering stuff. That is mountain top stuff. But the first thing Jesus does after naming the disciples, the first thing he does to train them in discipleship is bring them with him down the mountain into the level places to proclaim the kingdom, heal, cast out demons, and meet needs.
Here’s an idea for a church leader or youth leader. Make arrangements to take a few Sundays off. Go out. Look around. See what God may be calling you into. What you see , hear, and experience may surprise you.