First confession: I’m not yet an ordained “pastor,” but the title I used sounds more interesting than “Confessions of a Youth Director.” Second confession: I’m scared to death of being the parent of teenagers!
I have two boys, ages 6 and 8. By all accounts, I should not worry about being the parent of a teenager yet. However, if 14 years in youth ministry have taught me anything, it is that kids grow up faster than parents expect! When my oldest son turned 8 in December I realized that I had less than ten years left to plan for a college fund and only eight to plan for him driving on his own! Yikes!! Scarier still: only 5 years until he is officially a “teen!” In recent years, some of the teenagers I work with have asked me if I wouldn’t like to have a girl. I have a pat response: “Yes, I would love to have a little girl, I just don’t want to have a teenage girl.” This usually gets a good laugh from the boys and indignant protests from the girls. It’s funny, but it is also totally honest! It’s not that I think boys are going to be so easy, it is just that I at least understand some of what they are going to face, and I hope (probably naïvely) that it will help me a bit.
So what does any of this have to do with this blog about our new church development? This brings me to my next confession: one of the biggest reasons that I want to be part of planting a church is that I have a desire to see my boys living and growing up in a community of faith that is deeply woven into their lives – in their school, on their sports teams, in their neighborhood, in their home, etc. I want them to “see” and “feel” what it is to be the church more than I want them to hear and talk about it.
Now please do not hear the wrong thing: I am NOT saying that Mountain View cannot be that kind of church or that there aren’t other churches in Stanwood/Camano that are like this. What I am saying is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to use our current models of being and doing church to disciple young people. This is not a radical statement – almost any book or conference on youth ministry today will be talking about this phenomenon of young people leaving the church after high school. I think that older generations in the church are finally admitting that this is not simply a repeat of previous patterns of young people leaving the church and then returning when they have a family (the statistical trends are simply too obvious for that kind of speculation now. See #5 in Five Myths by Barna). So what we need in order to disciple young families are new models. Models that can be integrated into the lives of families, equipping them to live out their faith together during the week where they work and play in order that more people may come to know and believe in Jesus Christ.
So we need to experiment. We need to try new things. We need to fail, try again, fail, and try again. We need to embody the church as people more than place. Since I know that the church is going to have to change in order to be faithful to God’s calling in the world, I might as well get on board now! I want to be able to look my boy’s in the eye someday and tell them that I at least tried to live out what they hear me preaching from the pulpit, even if it means letting go of some of what has been comfortable for me.