#4 Truth Learned: Aim Young
In my last week as pastor of Edinbrook, I am reflecting on my journey as your leader. I’m sharing a “Truth Learned” each day this week–-insights I have gleaned through my 16 years as pastor of this WONDERFUL church.
My next Truth Learned created some of the most painful interactions of all with people. But when I committed myself to leading our church in this direction, it made such a profound God-honoring difference that I still can hardly believe it.
#4 Truth Learned: Aim Young.
Believe me–I know this can be controversial, argued adamantly on both sides, and can even seem like a slight to the older crowd. But hang in here with me, because there are some REALLY GOOD reasons for taking this approach–and whether everyone likes it or not, when embraced, everyone wins!
The easiest thing for a pastor to do is appeal to the long-timers. The middle-aged and upward are the givers, the ones in positions of leadership, those most vocal, and the ones that often find change the most difficult. They have usually perfected their arguments quite well, too. SO–deciding to “shape” the ministry to reach a younger audience is very risky and extremely difficult. I’m convinced, however, that when done carefully and with intentionality, it can produce spiritual health and vitality in the church that would be missed any other way.
Here are a few reasons why aiming young is so important:
- We are able to create a love of church in young people that carries into the rest of their lives. If we lose our youth because church is “boring” or fails to connect with them, we lose so much of what they can offer the church TODAY as well as preparing for a strong vibrant church in the future.
- Those who are to be more mature have the privilege of sacrificing for those who are not. When the church sacrifices for one another, everyone wins! We become stronger, blessed by God, less selfish, more other oriented. A church comes alive when this is the motif of Body-life together.
- We stay on the fresh edge of ministry techniques, song-writing, communication techniques (that also connect with our culture at large), and relevant to our community. The church is famous for being 10 or 15 years behind the times. When we aim young, we force ourselves to in touch with current trends. If we don’t, we will lose our youth. This is healthy on SO MANY LEVELS!
- We don’t make our children stumble. When the “older crowd” demands certain styles or traditions that are totally irrelevant to the next generations, we are creating a distaste for church for our children. I know this can be argued from many perspectives, but he bottom line is that this is reality. Ask almost anyone under 25. Jesus made it clear that, “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble,” Luke 17:2. This strong statement was made about doing whatever was necessary to bring the young ones into the fold.
- We sing new songs. I find it fascinating that Scriptures never tell us to sing old songs, but 9 times it tells us to “sing a new song!” When our worship becomes rote, when it’s more routine than heartfelt, we fail to engage our will, emotions, and soul into the experience. (See my blog post, IMAGINATION AND MEMORY, November 21, 2010). It’s like praying old routine prayers that no-longer engage the mind. In fact, if we primarily have old songs, we live in the past rather than the present. We reflect on how a song impacted us way back then, but often fail to connect with God in the now. Aiming young forces us to receive and consider the new songs God is giving us for today. And He gave us many through our amazingly gifted artists and song-writers at Edinbrook these past few years.
There was a season at Edinbrook about six years ago when I had godly committed youth coming to me in mass numbers and saying something like this: “Pastor, I love your teaching, but I cannot sit through another worship service where I find it almost impossible to worship.” After much agonizing prayer and consultation with people I deeply respect, I knew a change needed to take place. Hands down, it was one of THE most important decision I made in my years at Edinbrook. It was also the most controversial and frustrating for so many people.
When this re-aiming took place, however, a new vibrancy entered our church. We have become a worshiping church as result with lives being changed and transformed every Sunday. We have young people growing up and loving church. We have youth, from little children, to teens, to 2o-somethings who are whole-heartedly engaged. We have a vigorous health that we never had before nor would be able to have any other way. It’s purified our Body, forced us to be selfless, compelled us to be in touch with our changing world, and provided us with freshness that makes our worship of God REAL.
Aim young. I would do it all over again because EVERYBODY WINS!