We venture on in our series called Clear: Theological Foundations of Faith
This week the theme was The Church. The idea being the church as the natural (and supernatural) follow-up of Salvation.
Salvation came to the early followers of Jesus and they gathered together to pray, worship, support and encourage each other as a community centered upon a shared vision and keen sense of mission and purpose.
I began by asking students and leaders to share the words, images, or other associations that come to mind when they hear the word “Church”.
some examples included:
*It was interesting to note that very few initial thoughts were positive. Also most words were static, not describing the church as community or moving towards something.
Now, when we asked about Youth Group, things changed. Terms like fun, community, friends, mission, acceptance, exciting, Jesus, spiritual, paintball, retreats, service, etc. were then thrown into the mix.
*This reaffirmed my fear and belief that The Church needs to find ways to bridge the gap between student ministry and “big church”. Youth ministry students today, for the most part, do not see themselves connected to or with the church. This needs to change from a philosophical/theological perspective and on very practical and tangible levels of involvement and participation.
But I digress…..
Rather then begin our large group discussion with an opening activity, we decided to jump right in with a video to introduce the subject.
One of our youth leaders, Josh, prepped the group for the following video.
Re:form Video- The Universal Church
Gathered Group Discussion
We then launched into discussion about the universal aspect of The Church and the hope and dream of unity in purpose and mission.
Yes, church exists in different places, cultures, contexts, languages, expressions, but can and should be united in faith and love. We are connected to large and small churches; urban and rural, home churches and mega church and everything and everywhere in between.
We brought the conversation to a more personal level with these two questions that students discussed in smaller breakout groups:
What are things happening in your church that directly affect you?
What are things happening in your church that directly affect others?
For the bulk of the “teaching” times I had another volunteer, Will, read through some Scripture passages and I briefly unpacked them
What is the Local Church Like?
Gathered– how we assemble (Ecclesia)
1 Corinthians 14:26
Visible what we see right now on Earth
Unique– who we are geographically; understanding your culture and context
What is unique about Bedford (or Westchester county) compared to other areas?
I shared a few examples from recent travels comparing NY with TX, OKC, and Kansas City. It is amazing just how different places are, not just in geography or topography but religious life, culture, worldviews, political alignment, stances on social issues, etc…
What is the Universal Church like?
Scattered How we Live wherever we live.
“Tomorrow, I will “be the church” by doing____________________
Invisible– the expression of what we will see fully in Heaven one day
Mosaic– Who we are collectively…the body of Christ beautified and made whole and complete in community
We concluded the large group time with an activity lead by Becky, a former youth group student student-now young adult
She divided the group into 3 teams and gave each one directions and supplies for the following:
A. Construct/ Draw your dream building for a Church
B. Create what “church” could look like without owning a building?
C. Envision and describe what staff, ministries, and programs you would want your church to have?
Create a Vision Statement and then how each of the above fits into it?
Closing Prayer-offered by one of our students, Chloe
God, who are we that you’d choose to let us be your hands and feet in this broken world? At times our version of your dream church can be very imperfect, but we’re thankful that you perfect and have placed your perfect faith in our imperfections.
I don’t want to be excited for you for only a few years and then drop away later on. So please help me develop the kind of relationship with you and your church that lasts for the long haul. Along the way, help me to reveal your identity to the world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
We typically end our evenings in small groups, which help nurture caring relationships and friends and also allow more time to dig deeper into the topic or theme of the night.
Here are the Small Group Questions we used this evening
Clear: The Church
1) Do you go to church? Why or why not?
2) Do you think you’ll go to church when you’re older?
3) What will you look for in a faith community or church?
4) What are your spiritual gifts and what can you contribute to your current (or future) faith community?
*My small group of guys only discussed the first 3, but it was hopeful to hear what they are seeking and looking for in a church. Most of their answers had to do with relationships, authenticity, and not being bored to death. We still have a great deal of work to in integrating our students into the broader life of the church. Some do a great job and are very connected. Others remain on the fringe and get involved only when we have an “official” youth group related service or event. And yet others see no reason to be involved because they have our youth group, which I am not sure is a good thing…
Next week Heaven