Yesterday I received a copy of this article from Daily Episcopalian. I was struck by the honesty of the author. This young person writes about feeling unwelcome in a lot of churches. The reasons are complicated, because he is young, because he is a Native American, and because he lives in a border town. But are these reasons to reserve hospitality?
Jacob goes on to share why he and his friends attend a church. The reasons are surprising.
Let me tell you why we go to Church.
It’s not the sermon. Sermons are usually not about anything we can relate to.
It’s not the music. The music is horrible.
It is the sacrament of Baptism and the Eucharist.
It is very important to us that we are in a ceremony that connects us to the Holy. It is important that we see the Christ in each other and that we work against injustices. It is important that people in a Church are serious about the ceremony and treat it with respect. Almost all of us have been baptized and have taken our first communion as the highlight of our spiritual life.
We (church professionals) spend a great deal of time, research, and energy finding the right music, making multi-media decisions, and marketing our churches. Or maybe we’re not…
All of those things are definitely important. Meeting needs, sharing hospitality, and being somewhat relevant to a new generation of Christians, non-Christians, and nominally religious people is important. But this article says something about a deeper understanding young people have of the church. They can get music, graphics, and flashy programs elsewhere. But there is nowhere else in a young person’s life where they will get Eucharist.
Perhaps we’re focusing on the wrong things. I’m not at all saying that music, multimedia, good theology, engaging sermons, or meaningful programming isn’t important. But this article brings to light the idea that perhaps we need to be putting our focus on sharing hospitality, welcoming young people, and maintaining holiness.
The way we know that it is a good Church to visit is when we pass the peace. If a congregation really treats us as one of them when they pass the peace, then we know we are in a holy place.
We go to Church when we can and when we are welcomed. We will continue to invite other youth to Church when we find one who welcomes us.
Why do youth go to church? What can we do as a church to be more welcoming and hospitable to young people?