18 April 2013

Sunday Youth Activities and the Church - Take Two

Something starnge has happened to this post - several times. I am re-posting in hopes that it will work properly this time.

A recent article in Christianity Today proclaimed that the biggest reason for declining attendance at church services is youth sports programs. The article, in part, stated
According to a new study published in theReview of Religious Research, an examination of declining attendance at 16 congregations revealed that many pastors place the most blame on children's sports activities, since both practices and competitions are increasingly "scheduled on Sunday mornings at the very time when many churches traditionally have provided religious education." (for the entire article, which is brief, see here.)
While there is certainly a relationship, I think that this ­­equation has things exactly backwards.

These pastors are quick to blame outside influences. Certainly I agree that they (the sports leagues, the marching bands, etc) are taking families away from the church and that Christian families should take a stand against the anti-Christian scheduling of the Sports Authorities. But, I also think that a major portion of the blame is to be attached to the church itself.

First, the youth are not engaged in the life of the church. What’s in it for them if they tag along with the parents and then be shunted off to the “Children’s Worship” when the service moves to whatever passes for Biblical teaching? A return to families worshipping together along with thoughtful exposition and application of God’s Word, I suspect, would go a long way toward returning some families to the fold on Sunday morning.

Second, (letting it all fly free, here) some semblance of awe and majesty in worship just might captivate the minds and hearts of some folks, young and old. The ultra-hip pastor (or wannabe) with the great band and lots of super cool choruses gets old in a hurry. Why not slip out and hit a few baseballs (or golf balls) instead? Nothing new will be revealed here.

Third, the teaching from the pulpit needs to include the whole counsel of God. We do need to tell of the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. (Psalm 78:4, ESV). We also need to preach of sin, redemption, Christian duties, Christ's sacrifice, and the life of the early church. God’s love is expanded because we are such a needy people. The congregations need to hear all this. Technological aids and modern music (with theological teaching) are not wrong, but need to be properly used to accompany and enhance the message from God’s Word, not to replace it.

Yes, it is a shame that all these activities are scheduled up against the traditional worship times. Some of these families,certainly, would be there no matter what is happening at the church. This situation, however, is a good enough reason for churches to re-evaluate how they DO “worship.” 

Parents who take (or send) their children to various activities on Sunday morning are making a choice. 

Don’t blame; reclaim.

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