Let’s bring our young people back to church | Faith | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | May 15, 2016 5:00 am
Last Updated: May 11, 2016 at 4:55 pm
When I was growing up in a small close-knit community on Wiley Street in Walterboro, attending Sunday school and church was “the main attraction” for us as families. There was no such thing as telling our parents or grandparents that we did not want to go to church or that we were not going. Trust me — the consequences were terrifying, to say the least.
My grandmother, Mrs. Lela Gelzer, did not own a car, nor could she drive, during the time I was growing up in her house. So we either walked to church, caught a ride with one of the other families or my Uncle Tim and Aunt Lorrine Memminger took us when they bought a car.
Two of my most favorite activities at the church were Vacation Bible School and singing in the youth choir. Our teachers and the class leaders taught us the Word, but they always had fun things for us to do that made us want to come to Vacation Bible School every day. It was in one of those summer sessions that I learned how to make a rug out of stockings. Rev. Vera Bodison, one of my mentors and family friends, was the teacher. I just cannot remember how to make that soft rug now. She was also our choir director who taught me many of the United Methodist hymns that I have never forgotten. The older men and women of the church taught us well and set very good examples for us to follow as mentioned in 1 Peter 5:3, “Not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock” (ESV).
Another activity that I enjoyed very much was the hayrides. That was so much fun sitting on the back of a truck full of hay as one of the men of the church drove us around the county to sightsee, even if most of what we saw was woods! Well, due to safety reasons and laws, we can’t enjoy the hayrides now.
Something that the ladies of the church would do for a fundraiser that was “food to our souls” was host a wiener roast. The hotdogs sold for 10 cents, and they weren’t good until they were roasted almost charcoal black. When they sponsored them during the cooler months, nothing was like Mrs. Evelina Phillips’ famous homemade hot chocolate and cookies. Those were the days! Thanks to so many other soldiers of Wesley United Methodist Church, some who have gone to be with the Lord, and a few are still around, who made church the place to be for us to grow spiritually and in fellowship.
Then what has happened in the church in recent years that young people overall don’t seem to have the desire to attend? These are a few reasons that I have heard and have been told by some young people:
We don’t have “a voice in the church.”
Those who pay “big money” in the church think that they own the church and try to block people from worshipping freely.
I don’t have decent clothes to wear, so everyone will turn around and look at me when I walk in because I am not dressed like the “in-crowd.”
When my loved one passed away, hardly anyone from the church came to see about us.
Because I was arrested, they don’t want me to come back to the church.
My parents are divorced, and our church frowns on divorce.
The same people are on committees and boards year-after-year and won’t give others a chance.
They don’t want any new ideas from anyone.
I don’t have much money to give in church.
The church has too many fundraisers.
I had a child out of wedlock.
And the list goes on…
If this is what we are doing to our young people, then it is no wonder that many of them choose not to be a part of the church. However, keeping a child active in the church first has to come from the home from the parents, because they are the child’s first teachers.
As Christians, we should not run people away from the church, but draw them to the church and make them feel a part of the Christian fellowship. If we don’t reclaim our youth, then the adversary surely will.
A church with no youth ministry or good viable activities for them will not sustain the young people. They will withdraw, and when they come to church, the only thing they will anxiously wait to hear is “The Threefold Amen.”
Christ wants us to bring others to the fold, not drive them away because in Matthew 16:18, it states, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of **** shall not prevail against it” (ESV).
Let us bring our young people back to church, but we must have a plan to get them there and to keep them when they come. We must make them feel a part of the body of Christ and make them feel comfortable within those four walls whenever they attend. They must be taught that the church lives within us and that we all are accountable for the lives that we live.
Pastors and other church leaders, teach them and reach them. As Christians, we must make a commitment to reclaim our youth and bring them to Christ. Do not judge them, because Christ wants us to catch them and He will clean them.
Have a wonderfully blessed week, and never leave home without Him!
(Anna Bright is a minister and educator in Walterboro. She can be reached at email@example.com)