This is an article I wrote for the newsletter at the church I used to work at. It was published, in a modified form. Now that I have this audience I thought I'd share it with you. In case you can't tell or didn't know, I was the Youth Pastor of a small youth group on the grounds, and for a while we had youth coming and hanging out on the campus, this resulted in some graffiti,and the sprinklers having been left on one night. So older congregants began telling anyone young they saw to leave and quit causing trouble. This was my response.
I had the opportunity this past month to meet some of the young people who have been hanging out in our prayer garden. I have a report for you that should be very disturbing.
They said that young people don’t often come around anymore, they used to, but the bench has been removed and the hedge has been trimmed, and they don’t feel “safe” here any longer.
One young man expressed to me that he knew one of the vandals, didn’t think highly of him, and would have liked to step in if he could have, another expressed that nobody who came around was a criminal, so much as troublemaker. We’re dealing with hooligans, seeking independence from their parents through anti parental activities.
I told them we had a couch and an air conditioned youth room, they were rather interested in that. I talked to them about our mission, told them if there was any way to bless them I would be interested to hear it, because this was a place where we served Jesus the Christ and we were interested in sharing his love in non-judgmental ways.. and the news took a turn for the worse
“People here don’t trust us”, they said, “they don’t seem to want us around”. “When we’re approached people assume we are going to destroy something”. “One kind act could do a lot.”
I don’t know if it is coming across without tone of voice but I am very very angry at our church right now. Because I am here, attempting to reach the youth of La Mirada, and I’m not sure that’s something this church is actually willing to do!
Yes, I’m aware that there has been some vandalism, that it has cost our church time and money, I know there have been nefarious activities at this campus. If we are successful in reaching the well-meaning youth, we will probably attract troublemakers too, problems will almost certainly increase, and maybe one of those troublemakers will have his or her heart changed for Christ. That is the business I’m in. That we’re in…I hope.
So It’s time to make a choice. Do you want this to be a place that is open and welcoming to people who are different from you or not? Because you have to understand that if you do it is going to mean sacrifice, picking up the cross and following Jesus means moving out of our comfort zones and opening ourselves up to problems, but it also means the real possibility of affecting people’s lives.
And if not we will earn the opportunity to live and have church in the manner to which we have become accustomed for a while longer, but I warn you, if we do that this church will not be empowered through any gospel that is true, and it will wither, and it will die!
If we proceed down the second path, the rest of my interaction here will be entirely missional. Because if that’s how we do things then we need Jesus
As I finished taking with the unchurched youth, quite a crowd had gathered, and one mentioned it was hot. I left them with a couple bottles of soda, a pitcher of water and some paper cups.
What will you do?
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A Fear of Whalesby Ryan Gaffney