Several years ago, my husband became the librarian at an elementary school. The previous librarian had just retired after 30 years of teaching, many of those in the library. Over the years, the librarian had gotten quite possessive of the books in the library. She liked the neatness of the shelves. She liked all the books in perfect order. She didn't really want anyone to touch the books.
The students saw the library very differently. They also saw the library as belonging to them. But the students were not usually neat. They did not prioritize the Dewey Decimal System. In fact, they wanted to take books off the shelves. Sometimes they decided the first book they chose was not the one they wanted, so they pulled another off the shelf.
You get the picture. The librarian's vision of the library and the students' vision of the library were very different.
I wonder if church leadership can sometimes be a little like the old librarian. We like the neatness of our worship. We like the order, the predictability. We don't want anyone to touch our worship service.
And in trying to protect the service, to maintain the order and the neatness, we exclude the young. We are inconvenienced by their enthusiasm. We refuse their eager service because it will take too much time and effort to include them in worship. We keep them away from the instruments--too expensive. We turn them away when they want to help with the offering--too risky. We don't ask them to read a Scripture or say a prayer--too unpredictable.
And in turning the young people away, we are risking the very future of our churches. We assume they will be willing to wait until we are ready to hand over control. But what if they aren't? What if someone or something offers them a chance to use their gifts?
God chose Samuel, David, Jeremiah, Daniel, and Mary. He chose them all in their youth for important tasks that lasted their entire lifetimes. He didn't choose them for a special Sunday once a year and then ask them to take a seat until the next designated youth day rolled around.
It's our job, as parents and as church leaders to lead our children and to prepare them to lead. The effort may be expensive, risky, and unpredictable, but so is the future of our churches if we fail to "train up" our children when they are young.
Does your church have a "hands-off" approach when it comes to involving children and youth in worship? What ways does your church intentionally involve young people in worship? I would love to hear from you!
I am a regular contributor to The Alabama Baptist newspaper, and I also write and edit for several religious, business and educational outlets through my business, McWhorter Media and Marketing.
One of the greatest privileges of being a writer is the opportunity to share the stories of others with a larger audience. I love to do that!
Sharing my own stories is much more challenging, though no less important to making sense of the challenges of Faith and Family in everyday life.
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