I have been in my church for going on four years now and since the day I got here one of my goals has been how to grow attendance and involvement. Now there have been programs and gimmicks and silly ideas and serious ideas. And we have had some great successes and some failures. Wednesday night Youth worship has been a great success and we have had on and off success with our Friday night “Unleashed” outreach and both these things are good. We have come to a point with our Sunday School after experimenting for a few years where we are now solid. There is still room to grow in all these areas but the progress is there.
There has been one area, however, that has always escaped us and that is the area of Sunday evenings. We have tried a variety of different lesson plans group divisions and activities but could never get more than a few students involved. Then this past spring a student saw a book in my office that hand been on my shelf for almost ten years. The book was entitled “Why So Many Gods”. You may have heard of it or you may not have. It is a book written for teens in a reference type format. It details the distinctions of various world religions and cults and contrasts them to Christianity. When the student saw the book they expressed a desire to be taught about what other people believe and how to talk to them about Jesus. Upon hearing this I gave a half-hearted agreement and promise to teach it on Sunday evenings. We advertised for about a month and after a couple of delays in our start date began the series 4 weeks ago. Now while for weeks is not long enough to give an accurate assessment of the class it is worth noting what has happened.
The day I began the series I had several youth show up that NEVER came to anything else we were doing beyond Sunday School and Wednesday nights if we were lucky to see them then. Still class size was below ten in attendance and so I expected that it would be the typical response to everything else I had done on Sunday nights. I was wrong. Each week we have seen more and more students attending to the point where we have had to add chairs in the room we were meeting in. I have been both amazed and thrilled.
If attendance was the only marker I would only put moderate weight on the growth. Knowing that as school starts we would see a cycle of kids dropping off and out to handle homework and get ready for the school week. But there is something else going on. The interaction of the students is remarkable. I have fielded questions from everything from Church History and the formation of our Bible to angelology and demonology. Our students have shown week in and week 0ut that they are hungry to know more than just the Bible stories but to know the inner workings and deep reasonings of our faith. This hasn’t surprised me but has caught me off guard and I have felt ill prepared to handle the questions.
What does all this mean?
Evidence is mounting that gives us concrete proof that it is time to take off the kid’s gloves with the people of God within the church and teach them and lead them in the study of doctrine. Many church leaders skirt teaching Church History or Systematic Theology for fear that people will find it boring or worthless. Seemingly the sentiment is that it is only important that pastors know and understand this information. But the truth is that if we teach it and prepare it in a way that is interesting and speaks to the curiosity of our people that we will find that they consume it in the way a starving beggar consumes a small scrap of food.
It has been said, and I do not know by whom, that if a teenager can understand and be taught Algebra , Geometry and Physics then the can handle the teaching of Theology within the church context. It is our responsibility as their church leaders to feed them and when they wander away starving the blame will and should fall on our heads.