Recently while watching a Simply Youth Ministry podcast, episode 156, the question came up concerning students who attend multiple youth groups and multiple Bible studies at multiple churches. What is the affect of a student who “Just wants more of Jesus and more Bible knowledge”? This podcast got me to doing some thinking.
Church hopping seems to be almost a part of the culture in our community among the adults. Let’s go where the latest and greatest thing is happening, where the band is rocking, where the “spirit” is “present”, where I “feel” the presence, where I can be more of a power broker (of course no one would admit to that one), where the pastor won’t offend me.
I think first their needs to be an understanding of the local church. The church (body of Christ) globally functions through the local church. This is what read in the New Testament in Acts and the letters from Paul. The body of Christ is made up of individual believers connected in a local church. (Acts 2:47)
Here are some of my thoughts:
>Believers who float from church to church as kids learn a habit that is hard to break as an adult
>Students are being invested into, discipled by adult leaders at multiple churches. This might sound good in theory but this means that if one student is getting invested in by several churches that there are students who are not being discipled at all because we get spread thin. We have roughly 182 that our local churches in our community are reaching.
>When we say it’s “about the kingdom” we forget that the kingdom is supposed to grow, not by sharing sheep but by producing new sheep, new followers of Christ. We have roughly 2,416 in our community who need to be reached.
>God places you in the body where he wants you. (1 Corinthians 12:18) If you are supposed to be the “eye” in that church’s youth group you will not be effective trying to the be the “nose” in our church’s youth group.
>The pool for student leaders becomes a very shallow pool. Students with leadership potential become spread too thin. They become mediocre in a few youth groups rather than excelling and leading with excellence in one.
>Discipleship isn’t just about Bible study and knowledge. Discipleship is learning to be like Christ. Jesus Christ was a servant. Students need to learn to roll up their sleeves and serve God the way he has shaped them in the body where he has placed them.
>Students don’t learn a healthy and proper view of spiritual leadership and interferes with accountability of the youth leader. Hebrews 13:17
I recall a letter I received a while back from a youth pastor. He was planning a big youth event and wanted to invite the other youth groups in the region to attend. He went on to explain how God’s hand was on their youth ministry because of their explosive growth that he could not explain. (Does that mean that God’s hand isn’t on ours?) I dismissed the invite because I knew of many students who were attending his church’s youth group gathering were from several other church youth groups. I wouldn’t call borrowing other churches’ students “growth”. (In cattle country that’s called poaching)
When we have events I tell our students to not invite other students who are part of another church. Am I trying to form a clique? Not at all. I’m attempting to teach students their role in reaching their friends who don’t have a relationship with Christ or are not plugged into a local church. There are plenty of students out there waiting for someone to reach out to them with the love of Christ.
I recently heard a youth leader express the opinion that it’s good for students to be involved in multiple youth groups because it keeps them busy and out of trouble. I think what keeps a student out of trouble is a vibrant, growing relationship with the Lord. When we take on the “spiritual cruise director” role of providing activities we fall way short in the area of making disciples.
So what do you do? When a student attends our youth group gathering and I know the students is a member of another church’s youth group I ask them, “Why are you here?” Rarely does this happen because we haven’t created a culture of pulling in students from other youth groups. If there is an issue at the other youth group I encourage them to get it fixed and I also inform the other church’s youth pastor that their student was at our youth group.
Why not teach students the importance of plugging into the church God has placed them in and growing in their faith, their worship, their ministry, and their mission of reaching others? Why do we accept church hopping among students but not among adults?