When I started as the Minister to Youth & Young Adults at Colonial Church in 1997, I inherited a lot of programs, as most pastors do. Among them were Sunday school for both middle schoolers and high schoolers. Since I couldn’t be two places at once, I alternated weeks between them, and I had other leaders help me out.
The very first realization I had was that the high school students hated Sunday School. I mean they HATED it. Only about half a dozen students came, and they were all sophomores who hadn’t yet gotten their driver’s licenses. (Freshmen were in confirmation class, and they were required to attend worship.)
So I canceled Sunday School for high school students. They were relieved. Some of their parents were pissed. And I announced in staff meeting, “We’d better figure out ways to make our worship services more relevant to teenagers, because they’re be in worship as of next week.”
I’m happy to report that the church staff did up their game. The senior pastor began using more anecdotes from when he was in high school in his sermons. And when he gave litanies like, “This week, when you’re at work, with friends, at the gym…” he now added “at school” to those lists.
The choir director invited high school students into the choir, and I started putting students down to read scripture and lead prayers in the services.
Charlie was in my youth group when I was a pastor. He was, hands down, one of my favorite kids, and he and I have stayed friends in the decade since I left the ministry. He read my post on Tuesday and asked if he could respond. Here’s what he wrote:
Every week I go to church, not necessarily by choice, but by way of employment. I have been working at medium sized church in an affluent community for the last five years. When I realized that the the pastor was actually preaching on topics I could relate to I began to wonder where all of my friends from our forty-person confirmation class had gone? I even felt scared to admit that I went to church or worked at a church.
When I saw my friends on Saturday nights at the bar, I began to realize that this is our church, the bar, the social scene, dinner nights out on the town, not some suburban palace.