I get it. Really, I do.
The church has a limited number of young people within its walls, and we're desperate to keep them there, and therefore we think the way to do it is to get them involved. They have to be seen, and then they'll want to stay, because we let them do the teaching once in a blue moon, and bring out the drums and guitar.
The rest of the time they can sit and listen to the way we've always done it, and that will be ok. They'll be happy, us older people will endure what hardships we have to to keep them there, and we haven't had to change.
That's the only way to do it, right?
I'm not convinced.
(Be warned at this point that this is one of those "I have to get it out otherwise I might just explode" rants, rather than anything thought through, structured and eloquent!)
I love young people. It's a key part of my vocation and calling.
I love God. It's a key part of my calling and vocation.
I have a love-hate relationship with the church. It's a key part of my vocation and calling.
I love what church stands for, what it could be, how it could bring people together to form supportive learning communities built out of mutual love and respect which point towards a deeper understanding of what it is to love and worship God.
I love that it could be a place to welcome the people in those long Old Testament lists of people who need to find a place to belong, that it could be an inclusive community that exists for the worship of God and the love of mankind.
I love that it could be centred around a desire to seek God in word and prayer, to explore what he might be saying to us here and now through revelations old and new and in the power of his spirit.
I love that it could be a place where the simple could humble the intellectual, but the earnest student also becomes the learned teacher.
It could be...
But it's not.
The reality is that it's a club where we gather to do things the way we've always done them, to drink tea and socialise, to keep the old songs alive, to celebrate tradition rather than encourage discovery, and pray earnestly that more people see it our way and join us in our services (as long as they don't sit in our seats).
The only time we're willing to do something different is when it comes to children and young people. The best thing we can do for them is put them in a separate room, often poorly furnished, under-resourced, and with some very basic thinking, to equip them to know the stories we were taught when we were at Sunday School.
We let them into our club when it suits us, and so we can parade them back and forth, with a patronising round of applause for being present, before we shut them away again until the next time we want to feel good about ourselves.
Of course, I exaggerate, and you wouldn't recognise your church in what I am saying...
The other way we go, in order to try and include them more in our services is to play those songs they like, and invite them to do some readings and prayers every now and then. Once again we feel better for doing it, and we see them smile when they sing their modern music, even though the rest of us are bored of the fourth repeat of the same 5 words (*insert modern worship song here*), knowing that there will be more repeats to come.
They will, of course, then be expected to sit through the same sermon we expect for ourselves. That one with references to the way it used to be, that tells us the world is evil, that we should just ignore it, and finishes with that fluffy bit about how Jesus loves us.
Sometimes, if we're feeling really brave, and to make sure we cover ourselves from having to do it again for a really long time, we let young people come forward and do a talk (call it what you will, depending on the hoops your tradition makes people jump through before they are able to properly discern what a message from God might look like from the Scriptures...).
At this point we encourage them to recite that story that we taught them, and to retell the point that God loves us and this is why we have Rainbows (or whatever story you went with). Applause follows, they return to their seat, and an "adult" repeats exactly what they said because they didn't say it well enough.
Again, I exaggerate, because you wouldn't recognise that in your church...
What if there was another way?
What if there was a way of getting everyone involved together and learning from each other?
What if the services that were being led became relevant, and real, and honest about where we all find ourselves, instead of sticking to Christian platitudes and fluffy verses?
What if they became places where we heard from each other about the real world and sought ways for us to serve God within them?
What if we just needed to be brave enough to change to facilitate church being able to be all it could be?
What would it look like for us to model a better way?
Remarcable is one man blogging about Youth Work, Theology, Family, Life and those other random things that come to mind.