Unity in the Body

When we were growing up, my sister and I had exactly the same toys. Obviously my parents were wise beyond their years, because we competition would be fierce if one of us felt the other one was getting cooler stuff. But then, we ran into the problem of not being able to tell our toys apart. And so for a long while, my sister and I would have exactly the same toys in completely different colors. I bet if we had learned to share a little bit better, we could have saved my parents a fortune.

Youth ministry for a while there was turning in to the same sort of situation, wasn't it? In July I attended a conference at a church who had it's youth housed in a separate building (which was about the size of Westminster, so I wasn't jealous at all). We have our own youth pastors, our own youth worship bands, our own youth centers, and in a lot of cases we have our own youth worship services. Simply put, most churches have two sets of the exact same toys in different colors.

This is all running through my mind because last night our senior pastor joined us as a guest speaker at youth group. In fact, I was feeling quite jealous because it seemed as though our students were paying better attention to him than they typically do to me. He had them hanging on just about every word he was speaking. I seem to be saying this every night we have youth group, but this was the best night of youth group we've had so far.

There are people out there who would say that having your senior pastor speak at your youth group is a bad idea. They would say that he (or she, if that's your situation) would be irrelevant. They would say that it wouldn't have any kind of meaningful impact on the students. They would be wrong.

Lots of people have suggested lots of reasons why this might be the case (Marko's Youth Ministry 3.0 is a great read on this subject). I would even venture a guess that there was a time when such a separation between church and youth ministry made sense. I don't think that time is here any more though, and I would hope that we could start breaking down those walls.

The danger in such a suggestion is that we would insist that the youth group get to invade the bigger church body. Maybe you would have a youth Sunday and expose the older members of your congregation to electric guitars and rock and roll in worship. That's not necessarily the worst idea in the world (unless of course the rock is so loud that it resets someone's pace maker, not that we're speaking from experience here or anything...), but I wonder if we're closing ourselves off to ways in which the church could invade our youth group. Over the years, we've had some great guest speakers come from within our congregation. We've had members come by and just hang out with the kids on Wednesday nights. We've even had grandparents participate in our caving and high ropes retreats.

My encouragement today for those of us in youth ministry is to pull down the walls we've started to put up in our churches. My kids certainly gained a lot from it last night, and I'm sure that yours will too.